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Faithful: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

By: Alice Hoffman

ISBN: 9781476799209

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date:  11/1/2016

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 3 Stars 

A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Alice Hoffman delivers FAITHFUL – A young woman’s journey of survivorship. From darkness to light. Survivor’s guilt. Filled with emotion and heartbreak. A person sometimes has to reach the bottom, in order to make changes. Transformation. The road is not always smooth to hope and healing.

“There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”-- Leonard Cohen

From family, grief, friendship, and love- a coming-of-age young adult story of a tragic accident which changed both people in the car and their futures.

Shelby Richmond and Helene Boyd were best friends. One night there was an accident that left her best friend comatose. Seniors in high school. The night they had a disagreement. The night Shelby did not want to go out. Helene did. Helene usually got her way.

Two years have passed. Shelby had a nervous breakdown. Spent three months in a psychiatric hospital. Was abused and raped. She's attempted suicide. Her diagnosis was major depression, anxiety, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD. She was bitter, miserable, and drowns herself in her sorrow. She shuts out her parents and everyone around her. She feels worthless. She has refused to eat, cutting herself. There were rumors she was crazy.

Girls who had been friends with Helene and Shelby decided they had lost both friends. It was easier that way. They are no longer alike.

In the psychiatric hospital, they asked her if she believed in demons and angels. Why would an angel rescue her when she’s worthless and Helene was so much better than she could ever be?

Shelby buys weed from Ben Mink, a guy she knew in high school. A geek, he liked books and literature. She sleeps most of the time, dreaming of the way it used to be before her world turned to blackness. She knows Helene's vertebrae were broken, and her windpipe was crushed and part of her skull smashed. There was no oxygen to her brain for at least seven minutes. Helene will never come back.

Eventually, she moves to the City with Ben and they share an apartment. Her mom is sick and very supportive. Her dad has moved to Florida with a new life. She does not like people. People are dangerous, unreliable, stupid, greedy, needy, and breakable.

The one bright spot in her life is the secretive postcards she receives. The sender is unknown. Inspiring, hopeful, and encouraging messages and thoughts. A stalker, an angel? A lunatic who read about her in the paper? Why has this person never come forward? A game. He knows everything about her. She knows nothing about him.

In New York, she gets a job working at a pet store and falls in love with dogs and Chinese food. Some doors are opened, and some are closed. She slowly lets the light in. Ben encourages her to do something meaningful to show Helene she is a true friend. Could she actually have a future, a life, college, be a vet one day? Have a normal relationship?

Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may be actually falling into place.

Though drugs, horrible hurtful sex, adultery, and betrayal…she felt all this was punishments for all the things she did wrong.

“In fairy tales, such things happened. You stole from someone then were handed their fate as a punishment.”

Being a bad daughter, bad person, stealing Helene’s life. Emotional connections which ultimately lead to hope and recovery. What Shelby wants is the most difficult miracle of all. She wants forgiveness.

"Angels arrive when you least expect them. When the road is dark, when you're bleeding and alone and hopeless, when you're sleeping in a basement convinced that no one knows you're there."

While Hoffman is certainly a talented writer, I never felt a genuine connection with this book or its characters. Some parts seemed to be disjointed. The beginning of the story was suspenseful and emotional, as well as the ending. However, in between after the move to the City, it fell apart somewhat and lost my interest. Too many loose ends and for some reason, the characters were not fully developed as much as I would have liked. This may be a good read for Young Adults, versus the women’s fiction category.

As some other reviewers have mentioned, not sure I would have finished it, if it had not been for the author’s past history and her previous work. Shelby's last relationship in the book did not make a lot of sense to me, nor much said about Helene. The big reveal was not that explosive or expanded upon. Would have liked more flashbacks into the girl's relationships before the accident (possibly from two POV) would have been more interesting.

The best part for me was the mother-daughter relationship.



Source: http://www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/03/Faithful