Elyse Walters's Reviews > Faithful

Faithful by Alice Hoffman
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really liked it

Oh Boy....."Houston I have some issues I need to discuss"

Shelby Richmond, was the driver. There was a car accident. Physically, Shelby is not hurt.
Helene, Shelby's best friend, was the passenger. Helene is left comatose.

The theme that reached into my heart immediately was the "how in the hell
was Shelby going to learn to forgive herself." - ( she was only 17 years old), so that this very sad tragedy doesn't make 'her' comatose for the rest of her life.
I felt Alice Hoffman did an excellent job crafting this theme. It was very good - engaging - well done - with wise messages to boot...( exhausting at times - draining- but possibility realistic). Truth is, I'm not sure if Shelby's behavior was realistic or not. I hope I never have to find out.....but at least I felt the topic was fully developed!

However I thought there were side themes left hanging....not developed.

Honestly - for one thing, I don't understand why this story had Helene live at all?
We certainly never get a chance to explore her living in her parents home, as a brain injury daughter for eight years?
The first thing I said to my husband after reading this book, "is don't ever leave me in a spare bedroom in this house -in bed - with no brain activity - for eight years. And I
certainly would not want people coming over to receive a type of blessing.
I had an issue with Helene being in her parents home for those eight years. Her parents seemed a little too perky accepting in my opinion, too. How do they know what Helene can hear... -as they tell the visitors?
Oh and for the first two years after the accident - kids from the school - who did 'not' know Helene were crying? I just don't think that's how kids would be for two years.
And if they were...we should have heard a speech at a school Assembly. It might have been valuable if Shelby would have had a chance to speak to the students.

There was a rape scene just went away faster than it was mentioned.

There was a time when Shelby ran into a neighbor who was just coming out of the house from seeing Helene when she tells Shelby ...."oh Helene is such a beautiful girl".
I'm thinking... "The accident is still somewhat new...does she know who she is talking with"? It just felt like the most odd thing to say.

As for the love interests ....I felt the relationship -with Ben was fully developed ....
but with James...not at all.

The postcards....( too airy-fairy for my personal taste) - they didn't really go anywhere.
They were not 'enough' in our face to be 'satire'....and as a 'message'...
well, I didn't feel any emotion from them.

A favorite part of this story was 'closer' towards the end....( I felt real emotions)...
was between Shelby and her mother. It was absolutely beautiful and touching.
Love that part.

So.... Overall... The story had me turning pages. I think it's a 'great' story for young women. Some good dating messages. Actually many wise messages.
For me... There are flaws in this novel......but a book discussion will support 'reader-concerns' and enhance the experience and completion.
There is no question Alice Hoffman opens our minds and hearts. Some of the 'work' is left for us to unravel.

Thank You Simon & Schuster, Netgalley, and Alice Hoffman

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 22, 2016 – Shelved
April 22, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read

Comments Showing 1-41 of 41 (41 new)

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Anna Lumpkin sigh...don't you just love her?!

message 2: by Laura (new)

Laura Glad you made that clear with your husband

Elyse Walters I do love Alice Hoffman ---(Its not "The Marriage of Opposites or "The Dovekeepers"......but its still a good story)

Elyse Walters Laura wrote: "Glad you made that clear with your husband"

laughing.....but we are both serious --and we wouldn't want our daughter home like that for 8 years either.
There was 'no' discussion of it in the book..........'none'
I thought it was weird that they have Helene live --but then not even address the issue. (odd to me)

Cheri Terrific review, Elyse! The whole story of Helene made some bizarre sense to me, but only because it reminded me of the story of Karen Ann Quinlan... and maybe Quinlan's story had only stuck with me all these years because she was transferred to the hospital where I was the day my oldest was born, the crowd that encircled the hospital was difficult, at best, to negotiate getting in / out. She lived for something like 14 years after that. I thought it was weird that she lived in their house, hard to imagine, but it's easy for me to believe people would turn her into some kind of religious relic, living but not living.

Elyse Walters Hi Cheri, I'm just so surprised that this story was written this way...
It's a 'theme' to explore -which wasn't.
It's only legal I one state ( New Jersey)... that is the heart is beating - that the person is not declared dead. Who was covering the costs?
Alice Hoffman doesn't elaborate anything about Helene's future -
It's all Shelby's.
And I haven't seen any other reviewers - yet raise an eyebrow to this either. I'm just very surprised.

Also... The rape scene doesn't support or do any justice to 'yes means yes' and leaving a 'strong message' to young women about what to do should this happen to them.

The dating with theme for young women was better...( allowing women to see the stupid mistakes made - and why they should avoid them)....
Yet rape?.... aw.... just a quick move on?

Don't get me wrong - I still enjoyed the book...
but I felt issues were dropped on our laps - (some maybe didn't need to be)... but then went nowhere.

message 7: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro I'm reading between the lines here.
When I see a subdued Elyse Walters' review, I know that a book doesn't cut the mustard.

Elyse Walters Hi Kevin.... This one is tricky for me, because I did enjoy, and I was involved.... But I sincerely do not understand why a couple of major themes were almost encourage to be swept under the rug. They were topics that were brought up in the book ... Serious topics .... Within hardly a thing mentioned about them ... The main focus on the primary plot ....,worked great.... And really left terrific messages. But not so great messages are left ..,,,, when we leave a white elephant in the room ..... Pretending it's not very important.

I like the characters.. will not always... because they were not least likable it every moment .... And that never bothered me .....
I guess I have a hard mixing magical realism ( which was VERY LIGHT anyway) ...with topics which might be better off being explored.
But did I like it? Yes I still did.
Well I remember it? I will! You I still wish I could have my answers resolved ... YES!!!! THAT TOO!!! lol

Hugs Kevin!!

Cheri Elyse, I completely agree with you. I think Helene "hanging on" was a means of having Shelby not be able to let go... so maybe that's the "why" of that. I think it could be accomplished in other ways. For me, it was more the "creepy" factor, people using her as a prayer conduit. As for the rapist scene(s), well, I can only guess it was to remove any doubt that this girl was not going to "heal" anytime soon. Maybe to add to a new fear of men on some level, as well. Re: the costs, I think in the Quinlan's case, the state likely ended up bearing it (so, the people). As for "life support" I can only say that after my Dad was put on life support, I was told by the nurses, constantly trying to get approval to take him off of it, that it is not meant to be for long-term use, I was repeatedly told how much pain he was in as a result of being on it. I guess the only person who can really answer the whys of the choices is Alice Hoffman!

Elyse Walters Hi Cheri ...,great discussion we got going... love it! but I'm so sorry about what your dad and all of you went through.

and thanks Stephanie...
yep....I this this book calls for a discussion group!!

We're watching The opening to the Olympics ...WOW!!!!
I'm so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open but this opening is amazing!

message 11: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Glad you read this one "for" me, Elyse. Whew!

Elyse Walters Jan, "Whew"...............'back' at ya!!!! Thanks you for 'getting' what I felt --
I don't think I'm crazy here.

Well, I might be crazy --but not about 'this'!

xoxo ALWAYS a treat to see your smiling face!!!!!!!!!

message 13: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice :)

Jenny Baker Sorry you didn't love this. It was just my kind of book. I know what side themes you mean, but if some had been developed more, it would have been overkill. That's just me though. I thought it was cruel and selfish of the Boyd's to keep Helene alive. I kept trying to guess who the postcards were from and I failed. LOL The novel was so heavy at times that I thought the postcards lightened it up.

Elyse Walters Sweet, Jenny!!! I'm thrilled you enjoyed the novel, and honestly I actually did too I just sent needed to talk about these issues. I was still turning the pages and very involved but yeah there were parts that were exhausting because it was heavy .... I don't blame the author for that I think that is good she brought emotions out of us ..... I just kind of wonder why she made a few of the choices that she did. I tried to imagine the sack same story where Helene had died. We know of other cases and our city, from two of the major large high schools in this area where that is happened . But what I don't know is the ongoing grief that the families went through course, because that is not in the news every day . One boy did become a speaker. Because it seemed that the more important part of the story was the process of Shelby surviving, forgiving herself, healing, and eventually thriving as she still deserved and her life .... So having that second story line that wasnt really encouraged to be explored .... Then I can't help but wonder then why did they even have her live.
Even though these are still thoughts that I am curious about ...., doesn't take away my iso appreciation for the book on the whole ..... I'm always happy when people thoroughly enjoy your book, because it's the readers to enjoy the book the most who get so much pleasure .....
Never want to take that away from anybody.

I remember once absolutely falling in love with the book that I recommended to my Local Book Club, we're 25 people attended ..... And I swear I really was the only one who really loved it . Many completely trashed it.

It was years ago but I remember feeling about 2 inches tall ....
The book was "The Oracle Stamboul by Michael David Lukas.

I 'still' cherish that book...
nobody can really take my experience away from me.

Your 'freshness' is real Jenny!!! - and lovely!
love your wholesomeness!!!

Elyse Walters Sorry for all the typos, I was speaking into the phone

Karen Hi Elyse
You raised some thoughtful key points. Thank you for your honesty. Great review. This does not come out until November.

Elyse Walters Hi Karen... Thanks. Yeah, in Nov. xo

Rosalie Davi Great review Elyse as always, I am currently reading it and loving it. I do also love Alice Hoffman, she's one of my favorite authors as well.

Elyse Walters Roselie - ME TOO! -
Thanks - so much for sharing with me that you are reading it - it's so hard for me to keep up on mail and know what people are reading - but when you TELL me -- I'm ALWAYS interested ... and would love to know your thoughts either in this public form or private message...
I hope people - didn't think I hated this book - how can I not LOVE Alice Hoffman ..,
but ... I did struggle with some 'issues'.
Which I was interested in discussing with others and would loved to have heard Hoffman's reasons for her choices ..

Anyway ... love to read 'your' review, Rosalie - and get your thoughts when done too!

Elyse Walters Thanks Dorie

message 23: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth I am having a rough time getting into this one.

message 24: by Elyse (last edited Oct 18, 2016 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elyse Walters Elizabeth --is it that the girl lived? lol I thought she should have died....(not trying to be mean) ---I thought it was 'mean' that they kept her alive --felt like a circus --people coming to visit her for years to receive some blessing).........
I still enjoyed reading it --but I had some 'issues'. You know?
Or do you just not like the entire book?

Melissa I agree with you, Elyse. It was bizarre and incredibly sad that they let Helene continue on that way. Great review. ;)

Elyse Walters Melissa --I read this book awhile ago-- but it sure still stays with me --(I guess I'll never forget it -'because' its such a discussion book) ....which is good........
AND --- it was "bizarre and sad" that they left Helene continue on the way they did......I sooooooooooo agree!!!

Thanks for the trigger-memory! lol xoxo

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

I really liked reading your review.But i don't think I'll be able to read the book.Accidents, comatose, rape.They just depress me.

Dorie  - Traveling Sister :) Great review I'm a little hesitant to start this sounds quite dismal

Christine I think it's very good, not dismal, just a look at how a person can feel guilty to be the survivor.

message 30: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Heller Life is what it is !your goal is to be the one who makes it to the end unsksaved!!!!!!

Christina Great thoughts! I appreciate the review. I gave it 4 stars as well

Peter I like your review. That you took the book so seriously, to defragment it into plausible and implausible shows me that this book had abreal effect on something in you that is tangible. I've already read it, quite on accident really. But, I know after reading your review I would read it again despite having now known what sense of sorrow I may feel.

The main thing that got to me is the brooding sense of guilt, shame, and redemption. Shelby seems to feel an exorbitant amount of pain and suffering, even ownership of the fact that her friend died although she in a way doesn't seem to even express any real intimacy with Helene. Then somehow she metamorphosis into this enigmatic beast of a woman who is strangely fragile yet has an unbelievable inner strength that keeps her alive long enough to pass into a life she stand long enough to enjoy.

If I think about it, this is very rare for people who actually suffer what Shelby most likely suffers. I give Hoffman credit for writing an unusual tale so well that I felt not the need to judge Shelby or pick apart all the faults in the story, but write so prolificly that I actually got to know her, Shelby as a person, and except this somewhat impossible and unlikely metamorphosis.

Hoffman is so Kafka...

Elyse Walters First... forgive me for being late to see the WONDERFUL last few comments!!!! Thoughtful - much to continue thinking about - THANKS to each!!!!

Elyse Walters deleted user ... thank you - I understand... I've recently have been noticing very authentic comments from you on this site and I'm interested to know how you feel about books more. You're new to me .. a nice welcome!!!

Sheri Joyce Just finished this book last night and great thoughts to think through. I had a hard time transitioning from Ben to James. I knew more about Ben, I liked Ben, I liked how Ben treated Shelby (even if it was a bit door-matish on his part, in the end) and I'm sure James is a great guy but..but... I just didn't feel I had enough time to get to know him to really like him and come on board. Your thoughts on the "why" of Helene got me thinking. She does create a juxtaposition throughout the story, doesn't she? In the beginning, she is more alive than Shelby is what with all of her visitors and her "miracle" interactions with strangers and friends alike. Shelby has holed herself up in the basement, sleeps her life away and tries very hard not to exist. As the story progresses, we see a flip, though... where Shelby is now more alive than Helene is which we've always known to be true but Shelby didn't live that out initially.

Elyse Walters Hi Shar

Elyse Walters Oops... Sheri... 'hi'!! Wow... love your thoughts .... especially the part about Helene being more alive - than Shelby for while with all the visitors ...
I'm very sorry for seeing your great comment so LATE... but this book -- sure was one that never sealed- final complete thoughts for me - IN MY OWN MIND... haunts me still - when I return to thinking about it... so many WHY'S?? Yet ... don't get me wrong - I LOVE Alice Hoffman...
I personally just struggled with this story - the situations/ choices. And... it's funny I'm
often comfortable with books - endings - for example that do not give us the answers ... leaving the reader with thoughts to ponder.
Did you read Idaho? I wonder what you would think of that book?
For me ... it was more complete for me being incomplete. Not sure I'm making any sense here. Lol
Thank you so much for your thoughts... love them!!!

message 38: by Lori (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lori  Shearer I have to say that I am a huge Hoffman fan, and have read almost all her adult novels. At first, I also felt this was an intended YA read, though later topics indicate otherwise. I wonder if the lack of depth around thematic elements, and the missing pieces don't somehow come from that disorientation. Maybe it started one way and changed? All I know is that although I read the whole story, with interest and some emotional involvement, I did keep thinking that Alice either has new, inexperienced editors, or she just wasn't herself in composing this book (I even considered that someone wrote for her....) I know her capabilities and gifts; this book simply didn't do justice to whast ius truly an amazing body of Alice Hoffman fiction.

Peter Elyse...

Just let it go. She killed her friend, ruined her life, and knows it. She is the female high school shooter, the drunk driver, the part time drug addict, student of the month. She rode the coattails, and she jacked up her ride. It's like crashing your car before the big party, now she can't go. I almost wonder if this is a case study of real crime. Going to California with a tattooed artist that has been stalking you since high school and most likely ran you off the road, helped you to ruin your inevitable failed life by being your hero, and also wrote you creepy, cryptic, all knowing letters for years as you recover from your breakdown of having ruined your perfect future, and then finally hung on so long he beat his best friend, your other stalker, the dealer. I mean, that's text book second best, in other words, that girl "they" never see according to "who" cause of her, the friend.

Andrea I agree completely that the (oh too short) unexpected relationship between Shelby & her mom was the highlight of this book.

message 41: by Tina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina Davis Good review. I agree that the parts about Helene being alive at her parents’ house were the worst parts of the book, which I thought was quite good overall.

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