Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.0 out of 5
In February, when the snow comes down hard, little globes of light are left along Route 110, on the side of the road that slopes off when a driver least expects it. The lights are candles set inside paper bags, surrounded by sand, and they burn past midnight. They shouldn’t last for that amount of time, but that’s part of the miracle.
I have rated this book quite highly and have given it 4 stars. When questioning myself as to why I have given this 4 stars I can’t really give myself an answer.
If I think critically about this book I would say the below:-
- I don’t think I like the main character Shelby; she is self-pitying and self-destructive and makes questionable life choices
- There isn’t much of a plot, this is definitely a character driven story and is more about Shelby’s healing and her interactions with other people. If I look too deep I can’t really see much of a tangible plot-line
- The writing is very Alice Hoffman which means it’s predominantly a simple and easy to read style but with the occasional ‘deep’ statements thrown in
- The story has some triggering events that are actually glossed over (Spoiler: like Shelby’s rape by one of the orderly’s when she was in the mental health hospital) and also contains some events that are rather deus ex machina and potentially quite stalker-ish.
But…. I really enjoyed it. In some strange ways this is almost a companion novel to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – not in terms of the story or in terms of writing but in terms of the message which is: we can begin to heal from our trauma’s when we open ourselves up to the people surrounding us when they want the best for us.
Despite my picky review of Eleanor that can be found here I did like that book. I just didn’t love it. So why, when there are similar themes and similar issues with ‘Faithful’ did I give Faithful 4 stars and Eleanor 3?
And that my friends is what the French would call ‘je ne sais quoi.’
Why do we like somethings and not others? Why do we love something and like others? That goes for anything and everything in life, including books. Especially with books.
For whatever reason I didn’t make an emotional connection with Eleanor. We were inside her head (via first person POV) and yet I felt somewhat removed. With Shelby in Faithful we were removed (third person POV) and yet I felt the distance was closer. I don’t know why.
So there’s the science for you. I just liked how one book ‘felt’ more than the other. I was dry eyed reading Eleanor when I know others had more of an emotional response and cried during Faithful.
I said I didn’t think I liked the main character Shelby. But then I don’t care about likable. I want interesting and although I can’t stand self-pity and self-destructive behaviour there was enough goodness in Shelby and enough strength in her that compelled me to watch her efforts to heal herself. She made poor choices at times. And at times she made great ones.
Also, this wasn’t all about Shelby. This story was also about the people that Shelby comes into contact with who she helps and who help her in return. It’s all about the emotional connection that can be made with people and the results of your actions towards them. Good and bad. I liked the additional characters very much and this is a story about love – familial love, romantic love, friendship love. Heck, it’s even about the love we have for our pets!
I quite liked that none of this was insta-love or insta-healing. The events of the story take place over a course of several years starting from when Shelby was a teenager and stretching into her mid to late twenties. If self destructive behaviour ceases or a mass personality change/ outlook on life change occurs immediately after meeting someone then I think I put my mental blockers down. Not that I want to keep comparing but I think this was the issue that I had with Eleanor, she made changes incredibly quickly after making one friend and the course of her healing was months. Shelby clung onto her mindset and it took her a while to change it.
Of course, I can see that might be where some people could struggle reading about Shelby. It’s not easy to read about someone who still clings onto the past and reaches incredible levels of angst but thankfully the third person POV does give us some distance from the depths of her trauma.
I do have issues with this story though; mainly the deus ex machina throw in (it relates to the postcards) and the triggering event that is glossed over. Personally I think so much of Shelby’s behaviour may relate to that particular event rather than the car accident that put her in the mental health hospital to begin with but this is never addressed and I think that’s a pity.
I am an Alice Hoffman fan so may be considered biased in my reading of this book. However that being said I don’t blindly love everything she does – I wasn’t a fan of The Ice Queen for example.
Ultimately this is a story about love and hurt and healing. The quote that prefaces the opening is one from Leonard Cohen and sums it up completely:-