Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Faith, A Novel by Jennifer Haigh...family and emotions around a headline-grabbing news backdrop

I confess...I was particularly excited when Faith by Jennifer Haigh popped up as one of the books available to me as an advance copy from the Harper team.  I read and enjoyed The Condition, a novel that is nominally about a woman with Turner's syndrome but is really more broadly about family.  I did also read Mrs. Kimble but it honestly doesn't trigger much in my memory.

Faith again revolves around a family, in this case primarily three siblings, after the eldest (by a good bit, and from a different father) becomes one of the many priests accused of sexually molesting a young boy.  The sister is the primary narrator (though they take turns) and waivers at different points between total faith in her brother's innocence and a good deal of doubt.  The other brother has a family of his own and tends more towards anger, fear, and the belief that children don't generally lie, all of which is complicated by his own marital issues.  We also meet their parents (well, it is the priest-brother's step-brother), including a father deep in alcohol-related dementia.  The mother who is bringing the charges is also explored in depth and is a stark contrast to the primary family as, despite a loving mother, she has a history of drug issues and picking dangerous men.

I was again impressed by Haigh's deep understanding of family dynamics.  She explores both the complexity and the beauty of family, an exploration aided by using the viewpoints of multiple family members.  As with The Condition, I appreciated that the story was about much more than the obvious topic (Turner's and the accusation).  I enjoyed the read, though my rating varied a bit over the course and I can't put my finger on why (from 3.5 to 4).  I ended with a solid 4, not just as a rounding matter but because it is a book I can see myself revisiting, because the characters had a lot of richness, and because it helped me consider an ongoing news story from a different view.  This is NOT an action-packed book but there's a lot of emotional depth and I'd recommend it to people who enjoy character-driven novels that explore emotions and family dynamics.

For more on the book and links to other blogger reviews, visit the TLC tour site.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like an absolutely fantastic book. I haven't read anything by this author yet but I think this book would be the place to start.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

UK said...

Faith is an emotional ride, and it affected me deeply. Days later, I find myself still thinking about Father Art, my heart aching for him. The writing is superb, the characters are so real. It is simply the best book I have read this year. It ranks up with Emma Donoghue's amazing Room in the emotions that I felt when I read it. I grew up in a Catholic family, and that part of the story resonates with me, but you do not have to be Catholic to appreciate the richness of this story.