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Customer Discussions > Faithful Place: A Novel forum

Spoiler Question

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Showing 1-25 of 25 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 7, 2010 5:29:44 AM PDT
K. Cadigan says:

So what are your thoughts on how did Kevin died? Was it suicide? Was it murder? Why would Shay deny killing him if he admitted killing Rosie? I know that French has a history of leaving major plot points unresolved, but I was curious as to what others thought.

Posted on Sep 11, 2010 3:06:04 PM PDT
French's characterization of Shay from childhood to adulthood makes it seems very doubtful that Shay killed Kevin. For many reasons - including shame, guilt and hatred about his own place in the family - Frank has to walk away from Faithful Place with the self-satisfaction of making Shay guilty. Whether or not it is true, even if his daughter believes that Shay is innocent, Frank is determined to make Shay carry the burden of being responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the Mackey family for lifetimes. When French describes Shay as seeing right through Frank, I think she is telling us that they both know Shay did not kill Kevin.

Posted on Sep 20, 2010 7:19:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 20, 2010 12:46:29 PM PDT
Shay admitted to motive for killing Kevin. He was going to still blab about his murder of Rosie and cost him his final chance of escaping his lot in life. But he couldn't admit to killing Kevin because as he told his family at the pub...he's all about Family. He hates his family but is still the primary care giver. So on some level, he can't admit to himself that he pre-planned his baby brother's death, brought the letter to plant on Kevin, and pushed him out the window. I think he's in denial. And like Jimmy Mackey said, Shay and Frank are a lot alike. They were both premeditating their father's murder. But Frank was saved by Rosie's love and Shay had no one to love him that way. So yes, Shay saw through Frank and saw him as his kindred spirit...but what makes the man are the choices he makes and Frank made better choices.

Also, did I understand it right? Did Jimmy Mackey know that Shay had killed Kevin and was trying to convince Frank to drop his investigation.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2010 6:10:36 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 4, 2010 6:11:21 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2011 3:17:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 21, 2011 9:43:16 AM PDT
I agree with Buley-Meissner. Frank has a lifelong, ingrained need to whitewash himself by blaming others. We see him do this repeatedly throughout the book. The greater his guilt, the greater his need to blame others. And his guilt in the matter of Kevin and Rosie and Shay is beyond huge.

Frank is the one who suggests the murder of their father to Shay, and he uses the welfare of Kevin and Jackie as an argument in favor of this murder. But the moment Rosie offers him an easier way out, he suddenly doesn't care about Kevin and Jackie any more. He lies to Rosie that his family will be fine, and he can buy Kevin and Jackie a present with his first paycheck and that would make it all wonderful. He doesn't tell her that he and Shay are taking turns being home at night to protect the others from their father's violence. He doesn't tell her that Shay will have to take on this responsibility alone once he is gone.

So Frank pushed Shay closer to the edge for his own selfish purposes, and then for equally selfish reasons scotched the plan and left Shay standing alone on that edge without support. And he lied to Rosie about this whole situation. If Frank had been honest with her about his responsibilities and faced up to them, Shay would now be running the bike shop, and Rosie would be AT WORST working a good job with benefits at Guiness and at best gone to England a few years later than planned, as opposed to moldering in an unmarked grave at nineteen.

Frank consistently chose the most selfish and cowardly course of action that he could. And he hasn't changed. Except now his selfishness and cowardice aren't focused on trying to escape his family, but trying to escape his guilt. He is willing to use Holly's grief over Uncle Kevin as an excuse to bully Olivia and Jackie. But then he turns around and cold-bloodedly plans to use little Holly as a tool to manipulate her beloved Uncle Shay into suicide. That's not love. His pathological need for revenge has nothing to do with "love" for Rosie or Kevin or Holly or anyone else. It stems from his need to escape his own guilt by blaming other people, particularly Shay.

So here's what happened to Kevin. Kevin couldn't betray his brother, but neither could he ignore Rosie's murder. He was caught between two brothers, and two different moral codes. Kevin knew that if he ratted on Shay, he would be cast out from the family and community. He also knew that if he did this, Frank could not be counted on to stand by him. Frank has spent a lifetime repaying Kevin's affection with abandonment, and his refusal to return Kevin's calls make it clear that this isn't going to change.

THAT is why Kevin killed himself, and that is what Frank won't face up to. So he constructs a scenario where Shay cold-bloodedly premeditates Kevin's murder AND frames him for Rosie's murder, never mind that this is completely out of character for Shay. Shay is keeping quiet about the suicide to ensure Kevin a Catholic burial. Remember that Scorcher made it clear how devastating a verdict of suicide would be for these kinds of families.

So anyway, Jedi, I strongly disagree that Frank is the better man here. That is what Frank needs to believe. But that's like a draft-dodger claiming to be braver than a soldier who panicked under fire. Shay consistently made the unselfish decisions, took the hard blows, and shouldered the heavy burdens, and then cracked under the strain. Frank consistently made completely selfish decisions, in the full knowledge that these decisions increased Shay's burdens and psychological instability, and now he blames Shay for not being able to handle it. But if he'd been half the man Shay was, and been willing to shoulder half the responsibility that Shay did, the whole mess would never have happened, and they'd all have lived happily ever after.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2011 3:26:56 PM PDT
Thanks for your insightful reading of Frank's character. T French deliberately goes against readers' expectations that the character we know the best must be the character we exonerate. In the end, Shay is courageous, even more so because he keeps the truth to himself.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2011 7:34:53 AM PDT
@Louisa, we clearly read different books. Kevin didn't commit suicide. Shay murdered him to keep him quiet about Rosie's murder. While I agree Frank is deeply flawed and not the ideal hero, neither were Rob and Cassie in their respective books. And yes, Frank was selfish. But at that age, if you saw light at the end of the tunnel with the woman you loved, would you hang around in hell just so your family had company in their misery? Sure some might...but many wouldn't. Frank's a mess mostly due to his family's abusive history. But to vilify Frank and not point out that Shay has now committed 2 murders and somehow say Frank is the lesser man also ignores the whole story. The best man in the story, arguably, was Kevin...and he's the one who dies between these 3 horrible Mackey men (dad and 2 older brothers). Now isn't that a tragic meta statement.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2011 5:12:07 PM PDT
Jedi, I assure you I have read the book carefully.

Frank is an unreliable narrator, and we cannot assume he interprets the situation correctly. He tells Stephen that Shay confessed to Kevin's murder, and he has convinced himself that this is true. But we know that Shay did NOT confess to Kevin's murder, and if anybody has doubts they can just read that passage again. That is a giant red flag to the reader (one of many) that Frank's interpretation of events should not be blindly accepted.

According to Tana French's interviews, she doesn't leave stuff unresolved just to mess with our heads, but only if she finds it important to maintain psychological plausibility. So what plausible psychological reasons would Shay have for keeping quiet about Kevin's fate? According to you, it is because he is in denial about killing his baby brother. This theory requires us to believe that on the one hand Shay is perfectly capable of coldly planning a deliberate, first-degree murder -- but that once he finished his cold-blooded premeditated murder he suddenly goes into denial and can't admit to himself that he did it? I dunno about that.

Also, if Shay was cold-blooded enough to commit a premeditated murder of Kevin, why wasn't he cold-blooded enough to just walk away from Kevin and Jackie twenty-two years ago, as Frank did? Why, when Shay heard that Frank and Rosie were eloping, didn't he just wish them bon voyage, skip off to his beloved bike shop, and let their Da go ahead and kill the youngsters next time he got drunk? Shay would have been free of responsibility, legally blameless, and could have gone on with his life. But instead he a) tries desperately to talk Rosie into making Frank stay home and protect the kids, and then b) sacrifices everything he most longs for to stick around and protect them himself.

The only reason Shay killed Rosie in the first place was because he was incapable of leaving Kevin and Jackie unprotected, no matter how desperately he wished to get away. The whole plot hinges on this aspect of Shay's character. But then (according to your argument) French turns around and closes the book by having Shay kill Kevin in cold blood? I don't think so. If Shay had snapped and killed Kevin in a fit of rage like he did Rosie, I could buy that. But all the evidence points to Kevin's death being either suicide or premeditated murder.

So, the murder theory relies on Shay suddenly, magically, on the night of Kevin's death, turning into a completely different person than he has been up till that point his entire life. It also assumes that Frank's judgment when it comes to Shay is reliable, despite French taking the trouble to give us reams of evidence to the contrary.

On the other hand, the suicide theory is supported by the characterization of all three brothers throughout the story.

1) Kevin is an emotionally dependent young man who has been protected and loved his whole life. He is the last person who would be able to endure the ostracism from family and community that would come from doing what the law considered the "right thing" and ratting on his own brother. He can't take a huge step like that unsupported, which is why he tries so hard to get in touch with Frank, but Frank has cut him off. Again. So, instead he does the "right thing" by the mores of the Liberties and the Mackeys: He dies for the sake of his family, as a "real man" should, and as he said he would, after the pub scene.

2) Shay does what he has done his whole life, by sucking it up and keeping silent, to save the family from the verdict of suicide, and preventing the airing of dirty laundry as much as possible.

3) Frank does what he's done his whole life, he tries to escape his own guilt for the whole mess by making Shay the bad guy.

That's all speculation, but it fits the evidence AND the characterization for all three brothers, which is more than the murder theory does.

Last point! Shay gives a full confession to killing Rosie without even being pushed, but he never admits to killing Kevin. He denies it point blank. "I never did nothing to Kevin. Nothing. I would never kill my own brother." Frank interprets certain things Shay says as a confession, but a objective reader can see that this is only Frank's interpretation, and that all Shay is outright confessing to is rage and frustration with his situation. Furthermore, when Frank announces his intent to murder Shay and make him out to be a lunatic, Shay is genuinely shocked ("Your own brother") which is scarcely the reaction you'd expect from a first-degree fratricide. But we are supposed to disregard Shay's explicit, unambiguous denials, and his behavior in that last scene and throughout his entire life because . . . Frank says so? That isn't good enough. If anyone's got a better reason, I'm listening.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2011 6:45:04 PM PDT
Sometimes the best books are so well-written that readers find multiple interpretations of them to be plausible. TF writes such intricately plotted stories with such complexly developed characters that no one can be sure how to fill in all the blanks of who did what, how and why. Sentence by sentence, even word by word, she makes us believe in what Frank, Kevin and Shay are capable of doing. For me, Frank embodies the banality of evil, the everyday evil that hides itself in self-justification and self-righteousness. Still, I like finding out how other readers make sense out of the world TF shows us. That world is frightening, but she describes it beautifully. Even if I don't like how she leaves so much unresolved, I like seeing how her prose style is crafted so carefully.

Posted on Mar 24, 2011 6:26:32 PM PDT
I guess I don't see an inconsistency. Shay feels trapped and is resentful that Frank is escaping in the dead of night with Rosie and kills her in a rage. He buries her in that house and instead of having Frank stay with him and continue on w/ the plan to free them all, Frank leaves him behind holding the proverbial bag and taking care of the family. His brother screwed him over. Fast forward and he's on the verge of finally getting his ticket, buying the shop, becoming who he's wanted to be and Kevin starts hemming and hawing about how he thinks he knows that Shay killed Rosie. So here's another brother threatening to divest Shay from salvation and he kills Kevin by tossing him out of a window in the same house as Rosie murder site/burial site. He's not going to let another brother screw him. I never had a question in my mind that Shay killed Kevin. Kevin had no reason to commit suicide...having Frank not return his phone call can't have been an unusual occurrence given what a J/A Frank was.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2011 8:02:10 PM PDT
Dakota Rose says:
I agree that this is well-written with multiple interpretations. I think that Frank is the murderer. I believe that Shay did rough Rosie up but left her alive and then she decided that she wanted to go to England alone so Frank killed her. She angered him by taking away his exit from his family. Kevin thought Frank was Rosie's killer and wanted to confront him with it, so Frank arranged to meet him and killed him, too. What started me thinking about this was how Frank threatened and assaulted Imelda; up until that time Frank didn't seem to be the violent type. It is extremely interesting how the author has constructed the story so we can't be completely sure. Loved this book!

Posted on Jul 29, 2011 1:32:10 PM PDT
Corinne says:
This is what I love most about French's novels- the main characters ALWAYS, in some way, play a part in their ultimate demise. Rob, Cassie and Frank all make choices during their investigations that are self sabotaging.

Frank reminds me of this quote by Dr. MLK Jr.:
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

In my opinion, no matter how Kevin died, whether it was suicide or murder, Frank had the power to stop it. I think Frank and Shay are both evil in different ways; Shay is a more violent, tangible evil, whereas Frank is the kind of shady evil that may not always be apparent to an onlooker. I also think that French includes Holly as a significant character in this book as a way to confuse the reader; Frank has a child whom he cares deeply for, which shows that he is compassionate. Therefore you want to root for him, as you want to root for all of the main characters in French's novels, even when they let you down.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 5:30:01 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Dec 3, 2015 8:19:23 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 6:09:51 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Dec 3, 2015 8:19:30 AM PST]

Posted on May 3, 2012 8:19:59 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 3, 2012 8:21:30 PM PDT]

Posted on May 5, 2012 7:03:02 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 5, 2012 7:03:12 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 9:54:44 AM PDT
bgn --

"Shay had 22 yrs to come to terms with killing Rosie and to justify it in his own mind. So he was willing to admit to Frank that he killed Rosie because it was for the good of the family and it was an accident. . . In a few yrs he might come up with a way to justify his actions and even be able to admit it because he would have talked himself into thinking it was necessary."

So again, the Murder theory requires that Shay felt sufficiently justified within his mind to coldly plan and execute premeditated murder. But AFTER the murder, these justifications magically vanish for some reason, and Shay needs a few years to try to think them up all over again before he can finally admit that he did it. That's your argument?

Two other problems with this theory:

1) It requires inventing a character trait for Shay out of the blue. Shay has no history of self-delusion, and has never at any other time had any problem admitting his dark side. This is Frank's recurring problem, not Shay's.

2) Shay has NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER articulating his supposed motive and justification for Kevin's murder. "Every bloody time I get close to getting out, so close I can taste it, there's one of my brothers holding me down. I tried to tell him. He didn't understand. Thick bloody fool, spoilt kid used to having everything falling in his lap . . .." There is is, right there. His justification. He doesn't need years to think it up. He spits it right out. And yet he still won't admit to Kevin's murder.

"When Frank went anyway without Rosie, he stayed not only to protect Jackie, Kevin and Mammy but also out of guilt over killing Rosie. Shay had killed for the good of the family so he had to make it worthwhile."

Perfectly plausible -- but how does that make Shay Kevin's killer? According to your own argument, such a guilt complex would only increase Shay's devotion to his family, and turn his willingness to suffer for their sake into a self-punitive compulsion. By killing Kevin, he would undo all he had sacrificed and murdered in order to achieve. And according to your theory, he would be doing this just to get a bike shop which subconsciously he didn't really want, and to avoid punishment which he really DID want.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 9:59:04 AM PDT
bng --

"I don't think Frank is an unreliable narrator if you take into account his profession. "

Here is Tana French in interview, talking about Frank and Scorcher Kennedy:

"[A] lot of what Frank says about [Scorcher] in FAITHFUL PLACE is either inaccurate, biased, or doesn't match Scorcher's perception of himself. . . ..It was informed by Frank's own prejudices and the way he needs to see Scorcher in order to justify some of his own actions."

Scorcher is not the only character Frank sees in a distorted and prejudiced way in order to justify himself. He does this continually throughout the book. And this makes him an "unreliable narrator", as the term is generally used.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 12:35:55 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Dec 3, 2015 8:19:52 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2012 12:37:18 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Dec 3, 2015 8:19:59 AM PST]

Posted on Dec 29, 2012 10:48:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2013 10:11:05 AM PST
A. Wangler says:
Did anyone of you ever think of this as a valid interpretation: Kevin killed Rosie because he loved her and didnt want Frank (who he also loved) to go away with her. Kevin took his life because he knew that Frank was going to find out. Shay knew Kevin was the murderer all the time and took the blame because he cared for his family and the memory of Kevin.
This would also explain why Shay never admitts of killing Kevin.
I actually thought this all along and was a bit dissapointed when it turned out "wrong".

Posted on Apr 1, 2013 11:02:09 AM PDT
Erica says:
"Did anyone of you ever think of this as a valid interpretation: Kevin killed Rosie because he loved her and didnt want Frank (who he also loved) to go away with her. Kevin took his life because he knew that Frank was going to find out. Shay knew Kevin was the murderer all the time and took the blame because he cared for his family and the memory of Kevin."

That's pretty much Scorcher's theory as well, but it just hold up if you know Kevin. Just as Louisa wrote, in order for this to hold water you'd have to invent a character trait that was never exhibited. Kevin would have had to be a large violent man to brutally strangle and bash in a grown woman's head. Kevin wasn't large and violent at 37, much less at 15. Shay was the large and violent one. A better case can be made for Shay covering for Matt or Jimmy based on likelihood and ability alone, but that stretches credibility a bit.

And for Kevin to murder Rosie in a fit of passion he'd have to be at the very least a hopeless romantic. And his listlessly texting several women and completely uninterested in settling down in a relationship shows that's not his personality type.

My theory on Kevin's death is that it really was an accident, like Shay said. I think that after leaving Jackie at her car he turned around and headed for a pub. Upset about the letter implicating Shay, and distraught about Frank yet again abandoning him, and with his child-like inability to handle stress he drank himself into a stupor. He went to the bathroom, washed his hands (so, no prints!), and after reading the letter one more time placed it in his jacket pocket.

Leaving the pub, he passed by number 16. He remembered what Shay said about family, what Shay said about HIM, and ashamed about his fear of #16 he went inside fortified with booze for bravery. Going up to the third floor he tried to analyze himself like many of us do when we've had too much to drink. Shay not only claims he'll die for family, he actually KILLED for family! Frank, his favorite brother growing up, isn't even returning his calls. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what does all this say about himself? JAYsus, his head hurts, he'll just lean against this wall for a minute...

Posted on May 28, 2013 1:29:41 PM PDT
Joe Bob says:
I think Kevin finally showed Jackie the note and told her that he was trying to reach Frank. Jackie told Kevin that he couldn't turn on his family by reporting Shea. Kevin couldn't live with covering for Shay or turning him in, so he committed suicide and Jackie put the cleaned note in his pocket. To Jackie, family was the top priority, she had no problem bringing Holly into a house that was potentially violent, and keeping that secret for a year. The printless note makes it seem like a third party. I believe Shay, since he had already admitted killing Rosie and had repeatedly denied hurting Kevin. This was a good "read", actually listen. I came to the web to find answers and was left hanging...

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2015 1:12:32 PM PST
Unknown says:
Wow. Probably not what the author had in mind but we could be routing for the wrong hero

Posted on Nov 22, 2015 5:34:54 AM PST
DeeRae N. says:
I think Kevin had to have killed himself. I just read that section. Cooper and Scorcher say that a grown man couldn't have "fallen" out the window due to its layout. They also say there is no way a struggle could have occurred. There's no fingernail grips at the the window, no shuffle in the dust, etc.
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Initial post:  Sep 7, 2010
Latest post:  Nov 22, 2015

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Faithful Place
Faithful Place by Tana French (Hardcover - 2010)
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