Life throws curve balls when we least expect them – and we never know how we’ll react to them. We like to think we do, when we’re presented with hypothetical situations, but in reality, we don’t know until we take the catch. Faithful by Alice Hoffman explores the ‘what if’ and ‘what now’ for a young girl, a high achiever and ‘good girl, whose life turns upside down in an instant.
Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl growing up on Long Island until one night a terrible road accident brings her life to a halt. While her best friend Helene suffers life-changing injuries, Shelby becomes overwhelmed with guilt and is suddenly unable to see the possibility of a future she’d once taken for granted.
But as time passes, and Helene becomes an almost otherworldly figure within the town, seen by its inhabitants as a source of healing, Shelby finds herself attended to by her own guardian angel. A mysterious figure she half-glimpsed the night of the car crash, he now sends Shelby brief but beautiful messages imploring her to take charge of her life once more . . .
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When you lose all hope and sense of worth? Shelby, a fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookshops, and men she should stay away from, captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding oneself at last.
Thoughtful and tender, Faithful takes readers on one woman’s up-and-down journey towards happiness, acceptance and belonging. Left wishing she was dead and believing that she has nothing good to offer, Shelby discovers her best and worst of herself as she emerges from the darkness following a tragic accident. Unable to believe she is worth loving, she pushes away people who love her, and yet, her goodness comes to the fore with animals.
In some ways this is a slow read, but it needs to be – as Shelby rebuilds her sense of self, readers are part of that journey. Change or metamorphosis is never an overnight process. For me, as Shelby emerged from her shell and let down her barriers, it was like an artwork gradually revealing the essence of a person, stroke by stroke, word by word. No, it’s not an action-packed read, but it doesn’t matter (at least for me) because my desire to see Shelby’s transformation kept me glued to the book and turning pages.
Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99). My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
For more of Monique Mulligan’s writing on books, check out Write Note Reviews
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television