A heartbreakingly beautiful coming of age story that will wreck you in ways you didn’t know was possible from beginning to end.
Trigger warning: self-harm, rape, drug abuse.
Faithful follows Shelby as she’s left to deal with the consequences of a car accident that left her best friend in a coma while she walked away physically unscathed. Every day Shelby deals with the grief of losing her best friend and the guilt of being the driver. Shelby is left in a state of limbo where she can’t decide if she’s alive or dead. One day she meets someone who might convince her she’s been alive after all this time.
Faithful was absolutely beautiful. It broke my heart in the first few chapters then slowly mended it as Shelby discovered what life has to offer. The entire novel is Shelby discovering what it truly means to be alive and what living entails. Her transition from a survivor filled with so many emotions that she shuts down to a self-aware individual is beautiful and flawlessly written. Alice Hoffman’s writing style is impeccable because of her firm grasp and understanding of Shelby’s emotional state at every moment.
A central theme of this novel is love. What it means to be loved, what it means to love someone, and what role love plays in life. Shelby discovers the answers to these questions through different people she meets throughout the novel.
What I loved most about this book was Shelby’s interactions with the people she meets. Shelby is guarded, introverted, and cynical. These qualities color each of her relationships in wonderful ways. Despite her sometimes off-putting personality she becomes friends with an unlikely individual and their friendship becomes a central part of Shelby’s transition.
Hoffman’s decision to write this novel from third person perspective is an interesting decision that also happens to be the correct choice. One of the pitfall of writing from third person is the potential lost of connection between the character and the reader as well as telling the reader what a character is feeling rather than showing. In spite of these issues, Faithful prevails. I think this book wouldn’t have worked from Shelby’s perspective because of the very dark place she finds herself in for most of the novel. In my opinion, the novel would have been too depressing and would have shifted the focus to her everyday internal struggle rather than the transition from guilt ridden to self-aware.
Overall, Faithful is an absolutely beautiful novel that I would recommend to everyone. Shelby’s transition is inspiring, frustrating, and real. Her struggle with guilt and depression will resonate with anyone who’s suffered and will offer a story to aspire to.
I will definitely be reading more Alice Hoffman in the future!
Release date: November 1, 2016
** I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.