Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release date: November, 1st 2016
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.