Thursday, May 19, 2011

Faith; Jennifer Haigh

Title: Faith
Author: Jennifer Haigh
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Harper
Edition: ARC
Source: publisher
Date Completed: 5/12/2011 
Setting: Massachusetts
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

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.

29 comments:

  1. I am so anxious to read this one. I hope to get to it soon.

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  2. I've never read Jennifer Haigh...somehow she seems to fly under my radar.

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  3. The family story is the one I would like to read very much - I dont know how I would cope with the abuse though.

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  4. I liked The Condition; this sounds even better!

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  5. I've heard so many great things about this one lately. I think Haigh made a good choice is making the half-sister the narrator instead of Art. Otherwise, I think the abuse element would have been a little to much to handle, at least for me. Really want to pick this one up now. Great review!

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  6. Oh I love Haigh and I am so looking forward to reading her latest. Glad to see you liked it so much!

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  7. I have The Condition on my wish list. I'm not sure if this one interests me as much but maybe I'll be come such a fan with the first one that I'll have to read it :)

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  8. I loved Jennifer Haigh's previous novel. I can't wait to read Faith. The author's books always seem to have a story that makes one think.

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  9. I love the cover too -- really tying to the family element.

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  10. It is great to be back reading your reviews, which are so well penned ... I must look back to see what i have missed. Thank you for taking the time to inform and to share with us.

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  11. I really enjoyed audios of her earlier novels, Mrs Kimble and Baker Towers. Adding this to my wishlist - it sounds great! Thanks.

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  12. This does sound like a great book, and also extremely timely. I also want to find out what is behind the allegations of abuse from Father Art! Thanks for the great review on this one!

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  13. I just finished this...definitely a compelling read. Great review!

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  14. Sounds pretty interesting and quite topical!

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  15. I want to read this one soon. I'm hearing a lot of good things about it and it is certainly a timely topic.

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  16. This sounds interesting and well worth reading. I'm not Catholic, but I'd like to somehow understand how these things have happened.

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  17. Sounds like an interesting read, although I haven't read Haigh's previous work. Thanks for the review.

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  18. After reading a couple of positive reviews, I put this book on my get it now list.

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  19. Great review, I really liked it! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, too! I have wanted to read Jennifer Haigh's books for a while now and after reading Faith I am going to try to read another of her books soon.

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  20. This sounds like a really interesting book! I actually haven't heard of the author before!

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  21. I've read a few of Jennifer Haigh's novels and enjoyed them. I'm looking forward to this one as well so I'm happy to see you liked it.

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  22. I have yet to read a book with this storyline. Sounds good!

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  23. This one is a fave for 2011 for sure. I'm certainly looking up her other works because this one blew me away!! I thought the sister as the narrator was perfect!!

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  24. I'm not Catholic and have often wondered how this amount of abuse happens in such a centralized group. I've read other good reviews about this author. I will have to add her to my list.

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  25. Page-turner is the perfect way to describe this book. I am almost done and can hardly stay away. I definitely need to look for some of her earlier novels.

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  26. Love family dramas so I'll have to add this one to my list. Have you read her book Baker Towers? Really good story.

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  27. I've read some really good reviews of this book and am now looking forward to reading it myself. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much!

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  28. I haven't heard of Haigh before, but this sounds like one I would really enjoy!

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  29. I've heard such good things about this book, but for some reason it just doesn't draw me in. (Maybe because I'm a lapsed Catholic?) But it sure sounds like you loved it! Maybe my book club will pick it. Often books like this I have to be arm-twisted into, and then I love them.

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