It’s nice to be surprised by a novel that is nothing like I expected. Judging the book by its cover, I expected Faithful to be a novel about religion. It’s not. Reading the back cover, my thoughts changed to a depressing drama about the girl left behind after an accident. The story is far from depressing. It’s sad, yes, and quite moving at times, but Alice Hoffman’s engaging and heartfelt story is one of hope for the future.
Faithful is about Shelby Richmond, a popular teenager who is the driver in a single car accident that leaves her best friend catatonic for life. Now is a self-imposed exile, Shelby lives in her parent’s basement, passing the days by smoking pot and avoiding human contact as much as possible. She’s never forgiven herself for the accident, leading her to disassociate herself from the world around her.
Moving to New York City to escape the whispers of neighbours, Shelby begins the process of healing, finding friendships and love in animals and, eventually humans.
Hoffman’s moody writing gets to the heart of her protagonist’s self-loathing, helping us understand what makes her tick, all the while willing her to take the next step towards happiness. Beneath her self-pity and loathing, Shelby is a woman of substance. She has a heart of gold and is filled with a compassion that she’s yet to learn how to express. She’s a beautifully realised character.
Hoffman’s style is easy to read with her text building atmosphere as much as action. There are surprising moments of humour to break up the gloom of Shelby’s life, giving the prose a nice balance between light and dark.
Faithful is a book I didn’t expect to enjoy yet I found that I didn’t want it to end. When a writer makes you bond with the characters so much, they’re the best kinds of reads. I should have had faith sooner.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Released by: Simon and Schuster Australia
Release Date: December 2016
RRP: $26 hardcover, $16.99 trade paperback, $8.99 eBook, $17.99 digital audiobook, $29.99 CD audiobook