“Faithful,” by Alice Hoffman
Publication: Simon and Schuster; November 1, 2016
Synopsis: 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 have been a fan of Alice Hoffman for years, ever since the 90’s when “Here on Earth” was published. Some of her things I have absolutely loved and some were just o.k. I finished “Faithful” earlier today and have been sort of mulling it over before writing this review, but overall it is a really great novel. This is the story of Shelby Richmond, who is in a car accident with her best friend, Helene during their senior year of high school . Shelby endures some physical injuries but the real damage was emotional, however, Helene’s life is forever changed. After spending time in a psychiatric hospital, Shelby shaves her head and retreats to her parents’ basement, only coming out to meet Ben to buy pot. A few years later, Shelby moves with Ben to New york City into a tiny apartment while still struggling to rebuild her life and find happiness. Once she finds a job in a pet store, Shelby makes a friend for life in Maravelle, starts stealing and taking home abused animals and eventually goes to college. Shelby endures many ups and downs with Ben, her family, and then other men she meets along the way as she tries to move forward and live, despite what happened to Helene.
Shelby was a very interesting character and although it took me awhile to like her, I ended up loving her. She was emotionally broken and lost and at times, had no one on earth other than her mother. Ben was an important part of her life throughout the novel, but when they were together she never felt love for him like she thought she should. They became friends and it evolved into a relationship when she was at her lowest point in life, but despite how supportive he was and how much he loved her, she just didn’t feel the same. I absolutely loved her friend Maravelle and the bond that Shelby formed with Maravelle and her family.
Shelby’s mom, Sue was also an extraordinary character. This woman watched her daughter’s life completely fall apart after the accident but continued to show Shelby love and support regardless of her behavior. Sue was clearly unhappy with Shelby’s Dad who was distant, grumpy and a cheater. Despite her unhappiness in her marriage, she remained strong for Shelby and adored her, helping her however she could. It wasn’t until years after the accident that Shelby recognized how supportive her mother had been and as she accepted her mother’s unconditional love, their bond became even stronger.
One of the best surprises was James, although I can’t say much about him in order to avoid spoilers. But the instant Shelby stepped into the tattoo studio where James worked, it was clear something was going to shift in the novel. James’ honesty and humbleness were beautiful and heart-warming and he was absolutely one of my favorite things about the novel.
“Faithful” touches on so many themes it’s almost impossible to list them all, but I took away a few main ideas from the novel. First, trauma can and will destroy you if you allow it, and once you set off on a path of self-destruction and emptiness, it’s hard to get back to who you were. Second, just because someone thinks they don’t deserve love and trust doesn’t make it so. Lastly, we all have regrets in love and sometimes we think we’ve made huge mistakes when we let someone go, but there is a bigger plan for us all – we just have to be patient.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone that loves women’s fiction, and although there are some emotionally challenging moments, it is definitely a novel worth reading.
Learn more about Alice Hoffman by visiting her web page.
Purchase “Faithful” on Amazon.
*I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.