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Title: FaithfulFall Book Review Button
Author: Alice Hoffman
ISBN: 9781476799209
No. of Pages: 288
Genre: Literary Fiction
Origins: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 1 November 2016

Synopsis:

“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.

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.”

My Thoughts: Guilt is a powerful emotion. It cripples a person mentally and physically. It tears apart a person’s self-esteem much more harshly than any bully. It is insidious and difficult to ignore. It has the power to bring a person to the edge and beyond.

In the opening pages of Faithful, Shelby experiences all of this. Hiding away in her parents’ basement, she does not consider herself worthy enough to live a normal life, let alone live. Drugs get her through her waking hours, and her mother’s presence prevents her from doing anything more permanent to ease her guilt. A funny thing happens though once Shelby is forced to interact with other humans outside of her family. It is this awakening, slow and filled with setbacks, that is the heart and soul of the novel. And what a novel it is.

Faithful is one of those novels that is both painful and healing. Watching Shelby suffer through the unimaginable guilt associated with being the person driving the car and walking away from the very same accident that put your best friend into a permanent vegetative state becomes its own catharsis for anything about which you might be harboring guilt. Shelby’s disgust with herself and refusal to consider herself worthy of a normal life makes it okay to feel the same. At the same time, her inability to truly give up on life provides an example of the importance of doing the same.

The truly important thing about Shelby is the fact that she is the epitome of faking it until you make it. It takes her most of the novel to recognize that she is worthy of anyone’s love or professional accolades, something everyone else figures out very early on in the story. However, even though she does not believe she is worthy, she still acts like she does. She dresses for the role she has been given even though she does not agree that it is hers to have. She never thinks herself worth the trouble, but she never gives in to her desire to give up entirely either.

Faithful is a beautiful novel. Shelby is so filled with self-loathing but still manages to live her life one day at a time that she becomes one of the most hopeful characters you will ever meet. The unconditional love she provides her dogs and the love she receives from her mother eases your own heartaches as you recognize the power and importance of such relationships. You do not just fall in love with Shelby, you become one of her biggest cheerleaders along her journey, cheering every minor success and encouraging the setbacks. Faithful reminds you that no matter how bad things get, there is always someone out there who loves you for who you are. It is a timely message and one that truly soothes the soul.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

BOTTOM LINE: A must-read for anyone looking for a little hope in their lives.

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