Faithful by Alice Hoffman
This is a beautifully written book that immerses the reader in the life and mind of a young woman for whom everything seems false and useless. Shelby Richmond was once a popular, self-absorbed teenager, but in the aftermath of a tragic experience she suffers from a deep sense of worthlessness. She reacts with brutal honesty toward herself and others, determined to push other people away, even those who keep on coming back in spite of her behavior.
We meet her two years after a car accident that has left her best friend, Helene, in a coma from which she is not expected to recover, and Shelby burying herself in remorse because she was the driver. After cutting her wrists and spending time in a psychiatric facility, Shelby has retreated to her parents’ basement and has shaved her head as penance for her sins. But someone unknown intermittently sends her postcards with little drawings and cryptic messages like “Do something” or “Save something” or “Trust someone,” and the postcards seem to come at just the moment when she needs them. Knowing someone out there is aware of her pain inspires her to not give up.
The story is written in third person present tense, primarily from Shelby’s point of view, but occasionally the omniscient author sneaks in and we know what other characters are thinking or have experienced in the past. Present tense gives it a sense of immediacy—a report of what’s happening now. We are in this together with Shelby. We want to know who is her secret “angel.” We want to make sure she’s going to be okay, that she will eventually heal and regain her sense of self.
While this may sound like a dark, depressing story, it’s not. Nor is it predictable. Shelby is a good person caught in a dark place, but she also has spunk and attitude and a desire to keep things real. At the same time, she’s believable and vulnerable, and a character you will think about after the last page has been turned.
Grandma gives Faithful five stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This book is available for pre-order with release scheduled for November 1, 2016.