Book Reviews

How To Save a Life

Title: Faithful
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release date:
November, 1st 2016
Format: eARC
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.


I am hard to convince when it comes to coming-of-age stories. I hate whiny teenage characters. Why do all teenagers should sound so annoying? Is it a rule of the universe? I can’t talk for myself because it is hard to be unbiased but I do know teens that are lovely and easy to live with. I swear it happens. Also, moralistic stories in which love solves everything and the main character goes from the darkest place on Earth and in her heart to a beautiful swan smiling at life are not for me. I usually don’t bother with stories focused on young people finding their way back to life. Maybe because I lost my own map during that time? 🙂

Knowing this, you are absolutely right to ask why on Earth I would pick a book like Faithful. Only one possible answer: Cover Lust. And believe me, it was a good call!

Shelby was your usual teenager. Popular, at the top of her class, never going anywhere without her best friend. Life was good to her. Until a car accident threw her and Helene in a coma. Two different sorts of coma. Helene is stuck in a bed. She won’t wake up or move, but she breathes. Shelby wakes up and moves but she forgot how to breathe. What do you do when the weight of guilt is too heavy for your shoulders? You shave your head, you forget your plans for the future, you cut yourself off from the world. You just stop, close your eyes and pray to cease to exist. Maybe if you pray enough people will forget you, maybe you will forget yourself.

I warmed to Shelby very quickly. She felt different from the whiny people I was complaining about earlier. I did try to keep my distance but Alice Hoffman’s words resonated in me and my heart reached out to Shelby. Losing someone in such a violent way is a terrible thing, even more so when you feel responsible for what happened. Shelby was driving that fateful night, and she lost herself the moment she lost her best friend. Within a few weeks, she became a totally different person, a stranger to her parents and to herself. A typical reaction maybe, but more than the actions, it was her feelings that I recognized. We all express the same things in different ways and everything felt cold, raw and painfully true with Shelby.

It did not stop with her, though. Her mother plays a major part in the story, and I felt it was my own mother talking at times, which made me so emotional I had to stop reading at times. A pure and unconditional mother’s love that pulled at my heartstrings so hard I thought that poor organ of mine was gonna explode.

Love played its part well. Romance. Self-love. Parents love. Pets love. The pages are filled with a thousand emotions but the primary one is always there.

Life has a way to force you back on tracks sometimes. That exactly what happens to Shelby. Life has other plans for her and throws hints her way so she can find her way back to who she is supposed to be.

It starts with a boy. Don’t roll your eyes, we all need support and guys can play that part well. A boy’s love can take you to your next destination, no matter how wrong you handle their and your feelings. Because Shelby doesn’t do feelings anymore. They hurt too much. This leads to disasters, misunderstandings, heartbreaks, and confusion. All you can find in your own head and heart.

But she starts walking again. She finds a job. Not the fabulous dream job she had in mind a lifetime ago. A job that pays the bill. A job that will show her just how much she needs a friend, just how much she needs a new purpose in life, just how much mistakes, mishaps and terrible things happen for a reason, whether we understand it or not. Everyone she meets takes her one step ahead, and I smiled when I realized it was all so true, bad and good people exist so you can find your own place. I recall a couple of slaps (given and taken!) that have taught me this lesson!

I won’t delve too much on Shelby’s path during this book because you need to walk it with her to fully take in the emotional journey she goes through. I will only say I loved every step of the way, from the feelings hidden in a box to the power of a pet’s love.

You need to be warned: this book contains its share of animal love, but to get to it you need to read about those babies suffering from terrible … let’s say living conditions. If you are anything like me, you’ll cry and seriously consider giving up on the story. Don’t. It gets better, one way or another. I loved Shelby’s relation to animals. Furry little and big things showing her the way out. The way to the light. I experienced the same thing and the author perfectly shows just how strong the bond between an animal and a person can be. So make sure you have tissues at hand and endure it. It’ll be worth it.

Seeing Shelby grow up was moving and beautiful. No miracles happen. I would like to thank the author for not putting her character on the highway and have her winning at life within 6 months. It takes time to grow. We never stop growing. The road is full of bumps and other cars that go too fast and threaten to push out of the way. This is what the book is about. The bumps, the good and the bad, the long path to recovery, the reality of a happy ending.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The book is available on Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indie Bound

38 thoughts on “How To Save a Life”

  1. This sounds like a beautiful book Donna. I read a lot of YA books yes but I don’t think I’ve read any coming of age stories quite like this one. It sounds amazing, and I already love Shelby’s character just from reading your thoughts on her. It sounds like she goes through quite a journey in this book, one that must have been hard for her at times, but one that is more than worthwhile in the end.
    Great review, I’ll definitely be adding this book to my to-read list, and yeah like you the cover love for me for this book is unreal! 😀


    1. I am so happy this review made you add the book to your TBR, this story was a wonderful and powerful surprise and I glad you’re interested in it! 🙂 Shelby is such an interesting character, she sounds familiar without ever becoming annoying, and I couldn’t help but root for her and hope for the best. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you read it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well it’s not the kind of book I’d pick up in my own, despite the gorgeous cover, but your review made it sound so amazing I just couldn’t resist!
        Plus it’s great you connected with the character as well. In books like this I think character development is the most important thing so it’s great this book succeeded with that!
        I hope so too, thanks Donna. 🙂


      1. I read all of her earlier novels a few years ago and now have some catching up to do but I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her. There’s often a magical element in her novels that is always beautifully done and feels realistic and believable. I hope you get a chance to read something else by her and that you enjoy it as much as this one.


  2. “It takes time to grow. We never stop growing. The road is full of bumps and other cars that go too fast and threaten to push out of the way. This is what the book is about. The bumps, the good and the bad, the long path to recovery, the reality of a happy ending.” Loved this sentence ❤

    Ive always wanted to read this author (I love Practical Magic) but you're the only one I've read that loved this book haha 😀


    1. Aw thanks ❤
      I still have to watch Practical Magic! I have the DVD somewhere… Haha, I know, I heard some mixed reviews on it so I started it with a bit of trepidation. It makes the surprise even better 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s been a long time since I read a book like this but I used to really like these kind of stories, stories with emotional journeys and happy endings, like Jojo Moyes and Koombson. I really should start reading them more often. Maybe this could be my kind of diversion from my usual crime books. I certainly would love to read this one after reading your wonderful review!


  4. Great review of a great book. I’m glad you enjoyed as much as I did. I made the mistake however of reading a very emotional part while on the train to work 🙂 Definitely a story for animal lovers everywhere.


  5. Fabulous review! 🙂 Sounds like the character(s) and story overall are very easy to connect and relate to. My first instinct would be to steer clear because I’m moody enough as it is, but at the same time I recognize that this book gives a lot more than just some ‘self analysis’ and fictional hope. I’ll add it into my book wishlist… 🙂


  6. Donna! I am so happy to read this great review! I think I may have mentioned to you (or someone) this was on the back burner due to too many negative reviews. Well I am now pulling it off of the back burner.

    You interpreted this so differently than the reviews I read of others. they felt that Shelby was too whiny and her mother coddled too much. Seriously though… look at what they are trying to work through. You put this in great perspective! And it sounds like the author’s writing is solid, and I need to give her a fair read.


    1. I am so happy you liked this review! ❤ I'd love to hear your thoughts on this story. It took me by surprise, so I was shocked when I read many reviews that felt completely different as if we hadn't read the same book! I understood Shelby's reactions, even months after the accident because I know how difficult it is to get back on your feet and how long it can take to see life for what it is again. Things happen with her mother and I just thought of mine and just how much she cares for me and does her best. Of course, it tugged at the heartstrings 🙂 It never felt too much to me but I'm a mama's girl so.. xD

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a feeling I will connect with this as well, maybe more as the mother of a young girl. I will definitely share when I find time to read this. I wish now I would have snagged a copy when I was given the opportunity.



    1. Thank you ❤ Shelby is a great character to meet and fall in love with! Her struggles felt so familiar that I did not mind her needing what could seem like an eternity to finally stop wallowing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This book sounds amazing. In a couple years, I’m definitely going to have to read it. My best friend Lizzy died very suddenly, two years ago tomorrow–today in your time zone, I guess–and thinking about her STILL makes me immediately cry. Like, uh, right now, and while reading this entire review. I’m going to need this book once I’m able to NOT cry when I see some variation of the words “lose your best friend.” Thank you so much for this review, and pointing me toward a book I know will (eventually) help me in a deeply personal way. ❤


    1. I wish my timing had not been so in point, it might have been a tiny bit easier for you to read this 😦 I am so sorry to hear about your best friend. Thank you so much for sharing this with me ❤ You won't feel it but I am hugging you right now because it's the only thing I know that brings a little relief. I hope this book can help you a little when you are ready to read it. Moving on from such a traumatic experience is so difficult and the scar never disappears. I guess what I liked about Shelby is that she never gave up on her friend, even when she thought she had. She only learns to live with her in a different way.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Amazing review, Donna!
    And to hear this story had such an emotional impact on you…
    I loved this book so much. It’s a beautiful book, one of the best I read this year, and I am so happy to see you also liked it.


    1. The story took me by surprise. I tend to stay a little detached to avoid tears and too many questions to myself but I just connected with the story and characters so fast I never had a chance to keep my distance 🙂 Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my, this is definitely a beautiful review. It managed to hold the attention of a reader who isn’t easily impressed by teenagers; that says a lot! I’m definitely curious about her book now. It really sounds genuine and definitely sounds like something that would quickly get you to connect with the protagonist.

    – Lashaan


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