Rachel's Reviews > Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh
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Dec 30, 2011

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bookshelves: ventura-county-library, reviewed, reviews-dec-2011
Read from December 26 to 28, 2011

Haigh does a remarkable job of spinning a story that has the reader feeling sympathy for a suspected pedophile priest. The book is structured as a well-crafted mystery: did he or didn't he, and what possible explanation can there be for the horrifying accusation, whether it's true or false? The pacing and placement of hints along the way allow the reader the satisfaction of figuring out key elements well before they are finally disclosed -- oh, he's (view spoiler); oh, she's (view spoiler) -- without being hit over the head with annoyingly obvious foreshadowing. It probes the complexity of a heartbreaking contemporary issue with insight, sensitivity, and imagination.

I would have rated this novel higher than 3 stars except that I found the conclusion distinctly underwhelming. While the final revelations are reasonably plausible and offer a certain explanatory power, I would have found the story more satisfying if it had not been tied up so neatly in the end -- perhaps even leaving the reader unsure of the ultimate guilt or innocence of Father Breen. The coincidences are too convenient, the resolutions too pat. The interpretations drawn by the narrator also leave the story with a weirdly heteronormative moral, suggesting that the only mature, healthy adult state of life is in a sexual relationship with another adult of the opposite sex. This was an annoying and unsatisfying comedown for a novel that up to that point had done a fine job of exploring some of the sexual ambiguities surrounding celibacy, orientation, and the moral demands of the church.
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