My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
A beautifully written and emotional story I loved this book so much more than I expected I would. It is for the most part a sad story but the occasional moments of light and hope make it very engaging.
Despite the fact that she has written around thirty books this is the first Alice Hoffman book I’ve read, I think I felt they just weren’t my type of book, but when someone recommended this, her latest work, I thought why not. I am so glad I took their advice.
I’m not entirely sure how I would classify this book as it begins very much like a young adult contemporary but develops into a much more grown up story. It’s primarily about working out what’s important in life, recognizing the love and support family and friends provide and making the most of our time together. It left me kind of wanting to hug everyone I know and tell them I care about them.
The story follows Shelby Richmond over the period of about a decade. It begins a couple of years after a tragic car accident has transformed Shelby into a completely different person from the confident and popular girl she was in school and has left her best friend Helene in a coma. Full of survivors guilt, post traumatic stress and let down by those treating her for depression she believes she is nothing and doesn’t deserve the life she had planned out. She goes nowhere, does nothing and has absolutely no hope except when she begins to receive mysterious postcards giving her the motivation to take some action.
Whoever is writing these postcards seems to know exactly how she feels and what she needs and while the sender is a mystery they give her the push she needs to move out of her parents house, meet new people and begin to rebuild her life.
As I said, it’s not a happy story. In fact parts of it are depressing as hell but sometimes you just need this kind of emotional read. I don’t think I’ve cried this much over a book in a long time. It’s definitely not one I’d recommend reading while on public transport.
Main character Shelby is complicated and feels very real. There were aspects to her I loved, others I hated (she treats another character atrociously) and some which frustrated me no end. The most important thing though was that I cared and I could empathize with a lot of her feelings despite not having gone through anything like she has.
The other characters are just as complex and believable in their own way and the relationships between them were just the same. Her relationship with her mother in particular really got to me and the love her mum had for her was heartbreaking to read at times.
The book does cover a fairly long period of time but for the most part the timing felt right. It focuses in on specific periods then skims over others. My one gripe is that there were certain parts I wanted more of but I suppose that would have made the book considerably longer which may have made it less poignant.
There is also a little bit of weirdness around the Helene bit of the story which is necessary for the plot but seemed inexplicable to me in terms of certain characters behavior. Without giving too much away her parents keep her in some kind of limbo for years, not dead but not really alive either. This means that no one really gets any kind of closure which I think is the reasoning for it in the story but it just seems odd and other aspects I won’t go into are odder still.
These are however pretty minor quibbles in a story I loved a lot. I’m not sure it’s a book I’d want to read again (I don’t think I could go through the emotional turmoil more than once) but it’s definitely one I’d recommend.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an advance copy. All views are my own.
Blurb (from GoodReads)
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
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? Faithfulis 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.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.