December 20, 2011
Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Audio 2011 Harper Collins
Reader: Therese Plummer
Finished on 11/3/11
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
The critically acclaimed and bestselling author of The Condition returns with a powerful and affecting drama of faith, doubt, and redemption as one woman uncovers the truth about her family, her beliefs, and herself.
It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city’s archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.
Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother, Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Shelia’s younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila’s questions and refuses to defend himself.
As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family’s history of silence—and the resilience of its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman’s quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh’s most ambitious novel to date.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audio book and thought the reader did a great job. The story is suspenseful and reads like a mystery, keeping me guessing up to the final pages. The narrative is nonlinear, flowing back and forth in time, revealing the facts slowly and delicately. The characters are well-drawn and likeable; I cared about each and found myself thinking of them long after I finished the book. My only complaint centers around the transitions between chapters. Shelia tells the story in first person and her chapters alternate with those of her brothers, which are told in third person. The transitions between chapters work fine on the printed page, but they are abrupt and confusing in the audio format. This minor quibble wasn’t terribly annoying, especially since I had the hardcover to thumb through when I hit an odd transition.
I read Mrs. Kimble (Haigh’s debut), several years ago and enjoyed this novel much better. Now I’m anxious to try Baker Towers and The Condition to see how they compare.
Final thoughts: I was swept away by this thought-provoking novel and think it would make for a great book club discussion. As mentioned, I own the hardcover edition and plan to keep it for a future reread.
The paperback edition is due out on January 17th. I prefer this new cover over the hardcover edition, don’t you?