Author: Jennifer Haigh
Publication Year: 2011
Date Completed: 5/12/2011
At the heart of this story is the sex abuse scandal which surrounded the Catholic church for a number of years. Sheila McGann, is the narrator, and the half-sister of Arthur Breen, a priest accused of molesting a shy young boy. Aidan Colon, is the son of a single and sometimes drug dependent mother, and the grandson of Art's housekeeper. When Sheila learns that Art has been removed from his position of parish priest, she flies back to Boston to be near her somewhat estranged family.
Sheila provides the reader with a background of their dysfunctional childhoods. Sheila was the middle child and only girl of an Irish Catholic, South Boston family. Her mother, Mary Breen was only 18 year's old when she was deserted by her husband, an alcoholic. Art was just a baby. She later met Ted McGann and married him when Art was 12 year's old. She and Ted had Sheila and another son, Mike. Her new husband was somewhat hot tempered, and Mary herself seemed to withhold love and attention, even with her children.
When Art was just 14, he entered the seminary. It was a proud moment for his mother Mary.
"If you aren't Catholic--or maybe especially if you are--you have wondered what possess a young man to choose that life, with its elaborate privations. I asked Art this question, expecting a boilerplate Church response, that priests are called by God. His answer surprised me. It helps he said, to be a child, with little understanding what he is forfeiting. Love to marriage to home to family: connect those dots, and you get the approximate shape of most people's lives. Take them away, and you lose any hope for connection. You give up your place in the world."
"His words startled me, the deep weariness in his voice."
So after some 25 years in the priesthood, father Art, who had always been somewhat of a loner, is removed from his church, the only real home away from home, he has known. His mother Mary is in denial -- no son of hers could have molested a young child. He just took a special interest in the shy child of a troubled mother. On the other hand, his young brother Mike, a former police officer, doubts his innocence, but Mike has a plan to flesh out the truth. And, as sister, Sheila unravels the details about the family's past, long buried secrets are brought to the forefront.
As with her debut novel, The Condition, which I enjoyed, Jennifer Haigh has written another page turning novel. Part family drama, a story about fractured families, Faith, is a story that will hook you early on and keep you guessing as to the guilt or innocence of Father Art. The family dynamics were both contrasting, yet compelling and addictive. It's a story that will leave you thinking, and certainly one story that puts a dose of reality over the scandal that rocked the Catholic churches.