Faithful: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

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“She has an eye for tragedy and sorrow.”

What is the worse thing about an Alice Hoffman book? When it’s over and you have to wait for her next novel. That’s how I feel anyway.Over the moon happy to have received this arc. It’s no secret to people who know me well that I love Alice Hoffman, and if anyone mentions another author ‘writes like Hoffman’ I read that too. But there is no one that truly writes ‘just like her’. The best thing about her characters is even with their messy hearts and heads they still pull you in. They screw up, they make mistakes, they hurt people but no one more than themselves. Like many of us, when it comes to love (of every variety) Hoffman’s characters have a push and pull fight going on. There is doubt (is this how love should feel) and shame (do I even deserve this love) and that mysterious heavy baggage they drag along full foul creatures. Do I relate to that? Of course.
This book tells the story of Shelby Richmond, who by the random act of fate or the intervention of an angel survives a horrific accident that changes the life of her best friend forever. She walks away but who really lost themselves at the scene? Survivors guilt will feast on her for many years as we come of age beside her. She doesn’t want much anymore, doesn’t feel worthy but as it goes ‘we cannot escape life’ and people will insert themselves into her heart. She doesn’t hold on when she should, she chases what is wrong for her, and grudgingly finds herself opening to the world. It doesn’t matter what she does or how she tries to hide from life, any living breathing thing knows life will shake your world even if you live under a rock. She will be shaken and disturbed, and she will step in where angels fear to tread (I couldn’t resist) in the lives of her friend’s children.
There is a gorgeous mother/daughter story in here too but I don’t want to give away anything. Her mother is a bridge to the ‘angel’ that has been keeping watch over our darling girl throughout the story. I was surprised the turn the novel took, and I loved it for that reason. I think most people reading will assume they know who she will end up with. You’re likely wrong. More than ‘who will she love’ I felt the story was more about growth and getting past the things about ourselves that shame us most. We all have our own dead horse, our skeletons dancing in the closet and it effects what we allow ourselves to have, to do, to be. It’s heartbreaking, but with all of Hoffman’s stories- the characters are human beings and every single breathing inch of them is always becoming, altered by the cause and effect of every moment of their living. This line in particular hit me ‘Shelby finally agreed to live with him because she is fairly certain she is a victim of space and location and time, and all she needs is to get out of town in order to escape her past.’ It’s true for many people we think location will change everything, certainly there is a better life elsewhere going on without us? Yes? Maybe? And sometimes there is, but you are still the sum of everything you have done, of every hunger you had- you take you with you, wounds and all, wherever you may roam. Life has an aimless quality when tragedy strikes, it steals your breath and that future you envisioned but does that mean there is nothing better?
Shelby’s life will go on, and she will not remain safe and untouched from messes and mistakes. But she may just find gold along the way too. And rather than being saved, maybe she will do the saving. I loved this. And now I wait until Alice Hoffman has her next novel out. I admit, she is an author whose books I enjoy re-reading. I always feel my heart grows younger with her touch of magical realism.

Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

 

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