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Faithful: A Novel Paperback – August 1, 2017
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`Alice Hoffman's fictionalised biography of Rachel Pizzarro's life is an evocative, sensitive and historically rich portrayal of a woman living ahead of her time' * The Observer on The Marriage of Opposites * `Hoffman is a master of evocatively described places . . . This captivating novel transports the reader to a sensual world of lush tropical landscapes, colonial opulence and conflicted passions' * The Lady on The Marriage of Opposites * `What is it that makes American authors excel at depicting marriage? Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites is one of the best novels on the subject . . . not least because the opposites of its title embrace not just gender but race, class and religion . . . Hoffman's sensuous prose is ideally suited to describing the landscape . . . As intoxicating as the finest island rum' * Independent on The Marriage of Opposites * --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston.
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[NOTE: Apparaently some would like SPOILER ALERT if I reveal the first 20 pages, so... SPOILER ALERT].
Shelby and Helene are high school best friends. They wear matching bracelets. They do everything together. So when beautiful Helene is dumped by her boyfriend and wants to throw rocks through his window, Shelby reluctantly goes along and drives through the winter night. She hits a patch of ice and skids. Instead of turning into the skid (remember that from driver's ed?) she hits the brake. The car spins and collides. Shelby thinks she has died, but she suffers minor physical injuries. Helene is in a coma.
Helene is eventually moved to her home, and is thought to be the bestower of miracles, a sleeping beauty in Long Island. People line up to spend a moment in her presence, to hold her hand and perhaps be cured.
Shelby, meanwhile, is institutionalized. She stops speaking. She cuts herself. She shaves her head. She feels guilty for every bad thing that happens to others. She is convinced she causes bad things. She feels guilty and responsible for what happened to Helene.
Then one day she receives a mysterious postcard. It has a drawing and a simple message. "Say something."
Thus begins Shelby's slow climb back to life.
What makes it a great book. Well, since you asked...
10. Even in my deep cynicism, I believe that miracles happen. Alice Hoffman apparently believes this, too.
9. If I had to start on motherhood all over again, I would want to be exactly like Shelby's mother, who stands by her daughter through the deepest tragedies. She doesn't judge. She supports and finds beauty where others might see none. She is strong when she needs to be strong and gentle when she needs to be gentle.
8. One of the best portrayals of teenage angst, shown through Shelby's friend's daughter and understood by Shelby, who has clearly completed the AP Teenage Angst course.
7. Where does your soul go? Shelby wants to find out.
6. The writing is tender and sensitive without being mushy and trite.
5. The mystery of the postcards. Who is sending them? Why? How does the sender know what the next message needs to be?
4. Hoffman has the ability to make us feel the depths of despair and the glimmers of hope.
3. Can a stray dog (or cat) save your soul?
2. What is behind you is gone. What is in front of you awaits.
1. Through love and understanding and the goodness of humanity, we can be healed.
Okay. Enough tenderness and hope. I'm heading back to my usual literary diet of serial killers.