All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman

on December 15, 2016

faithfulFaithful
Alice Hoffman
Scribner
2016, 255p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher}:

Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl growing up on Long Island until one night a terrible road accident brings her life to a halt. While her best friend Helene suffers life-changing injuries, Shelby becomes overwhelmed with guilt and is suddenly unable to see the possibility of a future she’d once taken for granted.

\But as time passes, and Helene becomes an almost otherworldly figure within the town, seen by its inhabitants as a source of healing, Shelby finds herself attended to by her own guardian angel. A mysterious figure she half-glimpsed the night of the car crash, he now sends Shelby brief but beautiful messages imploring her to take charge of her life once more . . .

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When you lose all hope and sense of worth? Shelby, a fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookshops, and men she should stay away from, captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding oneself at last. From the bestselling author of The Dovekeepers comes this spellbinding, poignant and life-affirming story of one woman’s journey towards happiness – and the power of love, family and fate.

Alice Hoffman is for me, one of those authors. And I think all readers have them. Authors we hear about a lot, see their books around, maybe read the backs of them and think, hey that sounds awesome. I should read that! And then yet somehow, never get around to it. I even have a couple of her books on my monstrous TBR bookcase (I don’t have  a pile, I have a ginormous bookcase full of my unread books) and yet somehow, I’ve never gotten further than adding them to that collection. Faithful changes all of that.

I received it for review and was immediately drawn in by the cover, which I think is beautiful. It’s the sort of book that would stand out in a bookstore, that encourages the reader to pick it up and admire it. I added it to the small pile of books I singled out as my December pile and picked it up on the weekend. I was initially unsure of what to expect. The blurb had me intrigued but I think I might’ve had some sort of belief that Hoffman books were the complicated literary type that I struggle to read and perhaps, some of them might be. But this one was so infinitely readable that I finished it in a couple of hours and I loved it.

Shelby was just an average teenage girl, friend and confidante to the pretty and popular Helene. A terrible road accident changes everything, leaving Helene badly injured in a way that she will never recover from. Shelby suffers terrible ‘survivors guilt’, declining to leave for university, spending days dozing in her parent’s basement. She cuts herself off from everyone becoming disconnected from life. Only mysterious postcards with beautiful messages that encourage her to take charge of her life again, seem to provoke any sort of curiosity from her.

The accident occurs prior to the beginning of the book, so when the reader meets Shelby she is already well into the grips of her survivor’s guilt where she doesn’t feel as though she deserves the future that had been mapped out for her prior to the accident. She feels as though wherever she goes she is stared at, blamed and so she avoids going out in daylight hours as much as she can and alters her appearance.

Shelby’s journey of leaving that town and of forgiveness and happiness is what drives this book and although at times she does things that make you just think oh why, it’s easy to see why she does them. But she is full of this self-loathing and guilt and it takes her a long time to realise that it’s okay for her to want things for herself. To be good at something, to have friends, people who care about her and that she cares about. She ends up meeting a family through a pet store she works at, she doesn’t want to become involved in their lives, she just does. And although they have little, if anything, in common, the bond that they create is such a positive thing for them all and Shelby begins to finally find that she can belong places. She ends up rescuing animals and slowly, almost reluctantly, builds a life for herself. The postcards continue, long after she’s moved away from her parent’s home, still relevant to her life, still motivating statements that continue to bemuse her. Shelby’s mother calls the writer of the postcards Shelby’s angel and perhaps she is right. The encourage Shelby to make connections, to forgive herself, to care.

Faithful, although immensely readable for me is not always an easy book. It’s saturated with grief and there’s a lot of emotional ‘downs’, draining moments. Shelby’s journey is one of healing and acceptance that the moment of the car crash and what happened to Helene does not need to define her forever. But there are lighthearted, funny moments, deep connections (Shelby’s relationship with her mother in the latter part of the book is a definite highlight) and positivity as Shelby finally begins looking to the future and not the past.

8/10

Book #208 of 2016

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