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REVIEW: Faithful by Alice Hoffman

SYNOPSIS: Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

GENRE: Fiction, Contemporary

RATING: ★★★★★ / All the stars!!!

REVIEW: I have so much love for this book. If you follow my reviews I've probably previously mentioned my weakness for damaged characters who suffer from righteous guilt, or in this case the unavoidable survivor's guilt. There is just something about those emotions and the road that the character has to travel that pulls me in and hits me with all the feels.

Shelby is a mess and not a very likeable mess at first...or even second. Still, there is something about her character that just resonates with the reader. Her choices throughout the book have such a severe range that it could give a person whiplash but Hoffman writes with such empathy that the experience is seamless. The entire novel is about character growth, so of course we have to start with a hot mess because the journey is everything.

All the things I love about this novel is a spoiler! This is killing me a little (promise to come back and comment or email if you read the book so we can discuss), I can't talk about anything that endeared me to Shelby...okay maybe one little big thing; she loves animals, dogs in particular. And since I'm a huge dog lover (pitbull advocate and other maligned breeds!), her story arc as it plays out through dogs and strays was brilliant and so emotional. There are some great literary humans in this book but the dogs were like the first stepping stone in the plot. It amazed me how Hoffman was able to use animals so well, the entire book is worth it just to read about Shelby and all the animals.

The book is full of flawed characters, not just our lead, and I probably shouldn't even say flawed. They're people, just people who live and hopefully learn, and make with their lives what they can and will. We encounter some at their low points and others as they are finding their way through life, just like Shelby. These people move in and out of our story and some are there to stay. The relationships that are formed are some of the most beautiful that I have read in recent years. It's all about learning to love, not just others, but yourself. But sometimes the two went hand in hand, moving from selfish to selfless and when it was important to just know that a person is capable of love in any way in order to keep growing. Maybe I'm not making any sense, but that's why we have this book, because Alice Hoffman certainly does know how to convey all these complicated and interweaving ideas. And she does it really freaking well.

The book is dark and emotional in one moment and sweet and inspiring in the next. Hoffman has created an amazing story that will speak to so many readers. Young, old, damaged, or content, there is something incredibly universal about this story. I highly recommend, it's one of my favorite books of the year.

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