Alana's Reviews > Keeping Faith

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
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's review
Nov 10, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: book-club, reviewed, 2008_11_november
Recommended for: no one.
Read in November, 2008


Ugh!! I finished this last night because I couldn't bear to spend another day of my life with this in my purse. So why did I read it? For the same reason that many young women read books they might not be thrilled with... I had to read it for my book club (...which normally picks much more intelligent and interesting books). As I mentioned to the person selecting the book when she solicited comments about her short list of options, I've never been tempted to read a Picoult book. I doubt that I shall read another.

The short summary is this: after her parents' separation and divorce, Faith White starts talking to God (who she sees as a woman and calls "her Guard"). Faith starts healing people and develops what appears to be Stigmata. Divorce, medical things, custody battle. In short, complications ensue for father, mother, daughter, and the hot Southern television guy that's supposed to be proving Faith to be a fraud if he wasn't falling for her mom.

My irritation at this book exists on many levels. As far as being pertinent in a GoodReads review, here are a few. Oh, and I'm not too concerned about spoiling things for anyone reading this review, as I hope you don't pick up this waste of trees, so if you really don't want me to spoil the incredibly obvious and uninteresting ending... Don't read any further.

1. This was an incredibly formulaic book... It's as though Picoult had worked out a system for churning out books with interchangeable characters geared to a female marketplace (Working on her seventeenth book and she's only 42, is she? You don't say!). Names and details were changed, but otherwise it was like you might see: [Insert protective mother example here!] [Insert love scene here!] [Insert courtroom drama here!] I'm betting that if I picked up another Picoult book, I'd find myself in a book with the names and situations slightly changed, but ultimately, the exact same outline.

2. For a book that is essentially beach reading, it took itself way too seriously. You realize mass markets are made for beach totes, right? Pure and simple. That's the level of the writing, the intricacy of the characters, etc. I have nothing against beach reading or silly books, believe me. I find them to be delightful when that's what you want. But this book wants to pretend that it's about religion and protecting children... and funnily enough, she gets way more preachy about what children need in the courtroom scenes rather than being preachy about the religion (where everyone seems to be rational and accepting, aside from one small spectacle on Larry King). Oh and speaking about the focus on children...

3. For a book where characters kept insisting that the main story here (be it in the media frenzy, hospital scenes, or custody case) was about Faith (the child), I actually didn't think Picoult paid much attention to Faith until the last page of the book. (And then it was to do something incredibly inconsistent with the story she was writing.) Instead, the real drama centered around Mariah, the mother. (Maybe because Picoult is aiming for a middle-aged female market of wives and mothers, who want to know that just because they're not a gold-star mom and life isn't going smoothly, they're still great and could have a happy ending?) Picoult put way more effort into the relationship between Mariah and the tele-atheist Ian (though certainly not enough to convince us that their coupling is anything but unbelievable). Faith just wanders in occasionally to talk about drowned kittens and spurt blood from her hands and side.

4. I didn't find any of the characters to be deep or complicated... Or particularly likable. The mother is needy and spineless. The grandmother is a stereotype of a strong grandmother figure. The father is an adultering asshole that the writer wants to pretend like she's not depicting as an ass, so she throws in a moment or two where he sees other kids and misses Faith, or he worries a bit about diving right into a new family. The tele-atheist is way too simplified, would never actually be interested in Faith's mom, and his big secret was incredibly obvious. And for a story where "everything is uncovered" in these people's lives by detectives and media snoops, they conveniently miss a few things which, surprisingly enough, benefits the characters you're supposed to be rooting for.

5. Picoult wants you to think she's giving you a book where things might not be what they seem, and issues are complicated... She just doesn't want to put the effort into writing that book. There came a point where I stopped and wondered if Picoult was ballsy enough to do something (aka make this not about a kid hearing God, but make this about whether or not Faith or Mariah was lying and was mentally unstable). But that was a fleeting moment. I then remembered what a predictable book this had been up to that point and sure enough, we had to endure a hundred pages or so of courtroom scenes where Picoult desperately wanted us to think that the happily ever after for mother/daughter was in jeopardy.

Those are just a few things that bothered me. Thankfully, this book club meeting isn't for another month or so. I'll rant here and to my friends for a few more days, but perhaps by the time we meet, I'll have come up with something constructive to say or have thought of some interesting questions to pose for discussion. But right now, the only thing I'm left wondering is how many times Picoult watched Contact and how hard she thought about covering up the idea that Ian's character was really just Matthew McConaughey playing for the other side?


Sigh. Not what I would be choosing for a book club of intelligent young women.
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Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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message 1: by Dini (new)

Dini Why so? I've been pondering whether or not to read more Picoult.

message 2: by Alana (last edited Nov 06, 2008 08:53PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Alana Admittedly, I have never read any Picoult before, but the images of windblown women holding hands on hilltops or children in a close embrace that grace her covers... well... it doesn't exactly bode well, does it? Don't judge a book by its cover and all that jazz, but I'm about 75 pages in and I already know that the business book about company rewards and incentive programs that I was given at work will be read with more relish than this. It's a check your mind at the door kind of book, which isn't always a bad thing, but it's simply not my cup of tea.

message 3: by Rose (new) - rated it 1 star

Rose Very good review, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Julie I compelety agree! Thank you so much. I thought I wasn't giving the book enough of a chance but it also seemed like torture as I continued to make myself finish it. I haven't read any of Picoult's book and I think this one has ruined it for me:( I have My Sister's Keeper on my shelf to read but now I can't even look at it. I HATE perdictable books that spoon feed me. AGH!

Amanda H. I am laughing b/c you hit the nail on the head! I completely agree w/ your assessment! I have to add that the whole religious aspect of it just made me MAD!

Jeneroso i agree..this book was just boring with all those religion crap..but, maybe, give j.picoult a chance..she has some great maybe, my sister's keeper..

message 7: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Thank you I liked your review and just wanted to make the comment that if it was for your Bookclub then your review here would make for an interesting night, so I have been wondering what how did it play out?

Alicia I enjoyed this review and find that I agree.. Good for you.

Ashlee Telschow Odd, I pretty much disagree with everything you wrote. Of course, to each their own. I did go looking for other peoples reviews, curious to what they think. But you made a comment about how her books are similar. Well...yea, that's called a writing style. Many authors adopt them. Stephen King writes horror, Nicholas Sparks always writes in a similar pattern as well. Love, tragedy, sometimes a hopeful ending. That is what authors do, they write in a similar style because obviously that is what keeps their readers coming back. I love the all too real characters and the trials that Jodi writes about. I love how much research she puts into her books as well. I started reading her a few years ago when I was 16. I definitely do not think JP aims at one set target audience. I also think she spent a good deal on Faith in this story. Like I said though, everyone has a right to think what they want, I guess it just sort of bothers me when people critique authors to the point where the make it sound like they could do so much better. The woman is a NYT best selling author, so obviously she is doing something right. Of course if you think you could do better, you should give it a try. I'd read it! :) This is your first Picoult book right? I think maybe you would like a different one of her books. Maybe 19 minutes, The Pact, or My Sisters Keeper. You shouldn't let your dislike of one book prevent you from ever picking up another. Who knows, this may have just not been the title for you. I have read Stephen King and Ellen Hopkins books that I thought were horrid but I keep hearing that I should just pick up a different one of their books and give it a try. I think I will.

Anyways, have a good one. Just wanted to add in my opinions.

message 10: by Joan (new)

Joan I agree with your assessment of Keeping Faith and I was disappointed because I have read a number of Picoult's other books and have enjoyed them. Granted, they are light reading but generally alot more substantial than this one. Try "The Pact" before you give up altogether.

message 11: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Well I'm kind of the opposite mindset. I've read a few of Picoult's books before, and didn't like them too much. I found them bland and uninteresting, and just generally didn't like the writing style, but I really liked this book. I might add, too, that I'm a lot younger then the market this is being aimed at...

message 12: by Carla (new)

Carla Eskelsen Alana, thank you. Thank you.

Ashlee, the NYT best seller list is an indicator of what the masses are buying and reading; it does not necessarily select for fine literature. Plenty of nothingburgers hit the NYT list. For perspective, one need only look at top selling footwear.

message 13: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah I havent read this book yet, but I will. I suggest giving Jodi another chance. Yes, her books are similar, but that's because it is her writing style. She has a lot of good books. My favorite is The Pact.

message 14: by H (new) - rated it 4 stars

H I haven't yet finished reading this book so I've deliberately tried (and succeeded) to avoid any spoilers in this review. However, I'd just like to say please don't let one book put you off an author for life. Try reading My Sister's Keeper, I loved it. Another couple of my favourites are Handle With Care and Sing You Home. Perhaps Jodi Picoult's writings are just not for you but you might find that you like a different Jodi Picoult novel, so it may well be worthwhile trying.

Ashlee Telschow Carla you may be right...but plenty of her books have made it to the NYT best-seller list and if it happens more than once, obviously a mass amount of readers are enjoying her books enough to make more than one of them a best-seller.

I think she is a brilliant writer and that's all I was trying to get across. :) everyone has their own opinions though, I love to hear others thoughts as well. I just would definitely recommend someone giving an author another try if a lot of people are suggesting it as well (as many of the above comments say)

message 16: by Alana (new) - rated it 1 star

Alana Hi all! Just a note to say thanks to everyone for commenting, whether you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed in this review. I'm glad whenever there's a forum for discussion and people actually write thoughtful responses, even to a snarky review like this. At the time of writing this comment, this review has 25 likes, which is the most for any review of Keeping Faith. So obviously lots of people also disliked this book (or maybe just related to my frustration) -- but the comments prove it has a lot of supporters, too! It's been almost five years since I wrote this and I haven't picked up a Jodi Picoult book since. That isn't to say I never will, but quite frankly, with so many books that I'm really eager to read out there in the world, I'm not sure I'll ever circle back.

message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Montoya Read nineteen Mintues by Jodi picoult. It's my favorite by her. Keeping faith is not one of her bests.

 Marla This was my third JP book. My Sister's Keeper was interesting but a frustrating read, I wanted to shake people in The Pact and I wasn't a fan of Keeping Faith. I think I would like to listen to Nineteen Minutes, but not anytime soon. If these are the best of JP, I think she is just not for me.

message 19: by India (new)

India Your review is spot on criticism, Alana. Jodi Picoult is known as an issues writer. She picks a topic and constructs generic characters to explore the controversy, usually with a heavy hand, but supposedly leaving some ambiguity at the "draw your own conclusion" end. They are absolutely formulaic, which doesn't make for compelling narrative or speak well for the writer's imagination. I would argue that's not at all the case with Stephen King's work.

Characters developed to explore an issue often end up feeling much more contrived than issues that seem to arise organically for well-developed characters. I tried a couple of her books, but find "teaching" novels like Piccoult's an awful waste of time.

Cotton candy. Looks like a big thick treat, but no real substance.

Shannon thank you for this; i couldnt agree more- i am just not good at expressing my thoughts on books as well as i'd like to! "Plain Truth" was picoult's first book i read, and i definitely recommend it. i've read several others and enjoyed them, but this one was awful and disappointing!

Stella Great review. I totally agree. I gave it three stars though, because once I started, i still wanted to finish it...

Catherine I sure wish I had read your excellent review before I wasted my time on this clunker!
I can't believe I stuck with this drivel for as long as I did! At least 3 times in 3 days I nearly abandoned it...I should have! I have read several of the author's novels and have enjoyed the page-turning escapism. But this one--UGH!!!

I was willing to suspend disbelief and buy into the basic premise of the story. What had me rolling my eyes was the hugely unrealistic actions and interactions of the characters. Totally, completely, unequivocally unbelievable.

message 23: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara 3) thats the point actually its not about faith its about her Mariah.

message 24: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara 3) thats the point actually its not about faith its about her Mariah.

message 25: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Dutko Hey, check out Leaving Time!! You'll like it much better I think.

message 26: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Dutko Hey, check out Leaving Time!! You'll like it much better I think.

message 27: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Dutko Hey, check out Leaving Time!! You'll like it much better I think.

Liliana I couldn't even finish it.

Kathy Rhodes I love most Picoult novels & am currently reading House Rules. Keeping Faith was probably the only one I've read so far that I didn't love. For me it was a hard read. Most certainly Mariah was the main focus, & I had no issue with that. I couldn't not finish it but it was a chore. Jodi Picoult's research is always thorough, in my opinion.

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