ALICE HOFFMAN’S, “FAITHFUL”

Ms. Hoffman’s, “Faithful” is not the literary gems that “The Dovekeepers,” and “The World We Knew” I felt were. There is no magic, spells, or unearthly but loving creatures in this book. This is a book about grief, penance, and redemption. It is exactly the lack of magic that makes this book so magical.

Shelby and her closest friend Helene, take out Shelby’s car on a miserable, icy night on Long Island. Shelby does not want to go, but Helene talks her into it. Shelby, who maybe puts on her seatbelt 3 out of 10 times, fastens up this night. Helene, who always puts on her seatbelt, doesn’t as she is too busy talking. They skid off the road and crash. Shelby is pulled from the wreckage with a minor injury, and Helene is left in a comatose state.

The grief that Shelby feels is overwhelming. They were both getting ready to graduate from high school and were getting ready to go off to college. Shelby is put into a psychiatric ward for three months where she is abused and when released spends all her time in the basement of her family’s home, occasionally escaping to buy weed from a boy named Ben.

Ben and Shelby eventually move to Manhattan and share a small apartment. Shelby, at first doesn’t want to communicate with other humans, and so she steals a number of dogs who were being mistreated and who give her great comfort. It is from here that her overwhelming grief starts to lessen just a bit, and we see the slow but painful recovery from the grief and the discovery of a future.

This is a painful, but beautiful story. It is all so very human. It might not be a literary gem, but my God it is a mesmerizing book.

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