Larry H's Reviews > Faithful

Faithful by Alice Hoffman
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really liked it
bookshelves: netgalley

I'd rate this 4.5 stars, maybe even 4.75.

"Shelby knows what's wrong with her. She is paying her penance. She is stopping her life, matching her breathing so that it has become a counterpart of the slow intake of air of a girl in a coma."

Shelby and Helene were inseparable best friends from the moment they met in childhood. Helene was always known to be the prettier one, and Shelby was fine with that—she was just happy to be part of Helene's orbit. But as often happens with childhood friendships, as high school drew to a close, Shelby became more and more frustrated with Helene's superior attitude, her habit of treating people (including Shelby) with disdain, simply telling them what they want to hear in order to get what she wants.

One night, while driving to a party Shelby doesn't want to go to, but afraid to lose Helene's friendship, there is an accident. Shelby is able to essentially walk away from the accident mostly unharmed (at least physically); Helene is left in an irreversible coma. From that moment on, Shelby knows her life is destined to go nowhere—she must pay the price for destroying her best friend's life. She lives in the basement of her parents' suburban Long Island home, college, and life, for that matter are no longer an option. She burns with anger and guilt, not allowing anyone to get close to her, except the former high school classmate who sells her drugs to numb her pain.

But as Shelby lives every day as if it is her punishment, she has occasional glimmers of hope. She receives anonymous postcards from a shadowy man who she thinks of as her guardian angel, a man who has been watching over her since the night of the accident. But she doesn't know whether this person is real or if someone is playing a joke on her, hoping she'll let her guard down enough to wound her. She moves to New York City and slowly, unexpectedly, starts to eke out traces of a life for herself, although she never allows herself to feel truly happy with anyone or comfortable anywhere, because how would that be fair?

Faithful is an exquisitely beautiful book about feeling unworthy of happiness or success because you believe you must pay the price for a costly misstep. It's a book about being surprised when the people who matter don't walk away no matter how hard you push them to, and realizing that one accident doesn't mean you are damaged goods forever. But more than that it's a book about learning to give yourself to other people again, learning to let yourself experience the joys of friendship, love, and having people depend on you—and realize that you can't punish yourself forever.

This book started off a little slow, and I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it, because at the beginning, Shelby is a miserable character. (Rightfully so, but still...) The tone and the subject matter reminded me a little bit of Susan Perabo's The Fall of Lisa Bellow (which I just read), in that one girl wonders why she was able to evade the disaster which befell another. But little by little, as Shelby's tough, angry, hurting exterior started to give way, I fell in love with this incredible story and these characters.

Not everything in this book works perfectly, but the emotion and the heart of the plot are just amazing. There were times I worried that Alice Hoffman was going to veer the plot into truly bleak territory and I think I might have given up on the book if she did, but she just kept letting the reader discover the kind of person Shelby was, at just about the same time Shelby was rediscovering that. Shelby is a fascinating, well-drawn character I just loved reading about.

I've read so many of Hoffman's books over the years, and I've always been a huge fan. ( Here on Earth , while perhaps a little melodramatic, is one of my all-time favorites.) But because the subjects of her last few books didn't appeal to me, I had nearly forgotten how much I love the way she writes. I'm so happy to have "found" her again, because despite its faults, I really loved Faithful . I just don't think you can go wrong with a book that gives you a little bit of hope, you know?

NetGalley and Simon & Schuster provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
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Reading Progress

October 2, 2016 – Started Reading
October 3, 2016 – Shelved
October 3, 2016 – Shelved as: netgalley
October 3, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Masterson Great review, Larry! I'm adding this one! Thanks! I hope this is good on audio, too. :)


Dana Sounds like my kind of book! Excellent review, Larry!


Lily S. Hey. Nice review, I'm reading the book now, and to be honest I have problem with the writing itself. I'm surprised that it gets so stellar reviews because of the expression of the emotion itself because to me it seems that's what it is written in a bleak, not very authentic way. Maybe it'll change later on?


Purple Country Girl (Sandy) Great review, I really liked this one as well. Hoffman is such a wonderful writer.


Cheri Terrific review, Larry.


message 6: by PorshaJo (new) - added it

PorshaJo Nice review Larry. I'm new to Hoffman, just read one book by her, but looking forward to more of her work. I'm looking forward to this one.


message 7: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Wonderful review, Larry. Glad you had a chance to renew your reading relationship with Hoffman again.


Cathrine ☯️ You liked it better than me and also wrote a better review Larry. Although this was not my favorite, I love Hoffman.


message 9: by Kelli (new) - added it

Kelli Great review! Adding.


Larry H Jennifer wrote: "Great review, Larry! I'm adding this one! Thanks! I hope this is good on audio, too. :)"

Thanks, Jennifer! I don't know how it will be on audio, but it's quite good in book form! :)


Larry H Dana wrote: "Sounds like my kind of book! Excellent review, Larry!"

Thanks, Dana!


Larry H Lilys wrote: "Hey. Nice review, I'm reading the book now, and to be honest I have problem with the writing itself. I'm surprised that it gets so stellar reviews because of the expression of the emotion itself be..."

Hi Lilys, thanks! I thought it was bleak at the start but changed about 1/3 through, but I understood why it was so bleak. However, I've seen others' reviews who said something similar to you, so...


Larry H Purple Country wrote: "Great review, I really liked this one as well. Hoffman is such a wonderful writer."

Thanks, Purple Country! Now I can go back and read everyone else's reviews! :)


Larry H Cheri wrote: "Terrific review, Larry."

Thanks, Cheri!


Larry H PorshaJo wrote: "Nice review Larry. I'm new to Hoffman, just read one book by her, but looking forward to more of her work. I'm looking forward to this one."

Thanks, PorshaJo! I hope you enjoy this one!


Larry H Mike wrote: "Wonderful review, Larry. Glad you had a chance to renew your reading relationship with Hoffman again."

Thanks so much, Mike! I love "rekindling" my relationship with favorite authors! Too many books, too little time!


Larry H Cathrine ☯ wrote: "You liked it better than me and also wrote a better review Larry. Although this was not my favorite, I love Hoffman."

Thanks so much, Cathrine! I did notice that a number of my GR friends didn't like this one as much as I did. I guess I'm just a sap at heart!


Larry H Kelli wrote: "Great review! Adding."

Thanks, Kelli! Hope you enjoy!


message 19: by Darlene (new)

Darlene Lovely review, Larry! I also love Alice Hoffman! This sounds like a beautiful story and seems to have a theme that has been popping up in many of the books I have been reading… "we are more than the worst thing we have done!" Thanks!


Angela M Exquisitely beautiful - all I need to hear. In my electronic pile . Thanks, Larry.


Larry H Darlene wrote: "Lovely review, Larry! I also love Alice Hoffman! This sounds like a beautiful story and seems to have a theme that has been popping up in many of the books I have been reading… "we are more than th..."

Thanks, Darlene! You hit the nail on the head with the way you characterized the theme of many books I've read recently as well!


Larry H Angela M wrote: "Exquisitely beautiful - all I need to hear. In my electronic pile . Thanks, Larry."

Thanks, Angela! I know others didn't like it as much as I did. Hope you fall closer to my view than theirs! :)


message 23: by Cher (new) - added it

Cher Great review, Larry! I will have to watch for this one when it comes out - sounds wonderful.


message 24: by Rae (new)

Rae Meadows Excellent review, Larry! (as always) I'm really looking forward to this one.


message 25: by Victoria (last edited Oct 06, 2016 09:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Victoria Beautiful, beautiful! Superb review and I just love how much of your heart you put into your evaluation of each story. I'm a fan of Hoffman and now I can't wait because it reminds me of words from another author I highly regard...“The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as our successes.” (from The Poisonwood Bible)


Larry H Cher wrote: "Great review, Larry! I will have to watch for this one when it comes out - sounds wonderful."

Thanks so much, Cher! Hope you enjoy this. It IS wonderful!


Larry H Rae wrote: "Excellent review, Larry! (as always) I'm really looking forward to this one."

Thank you so much, Rae! This is a terrific book, and I hope you enjoy!


Larry H Victoria wrote: "Beautiful, beautiful! Superb review and I just love how much of your heart you put into your evaluation of each story. I'm a fan of Hoffman and now I can't wait because it reminds me of words from ..."

Victoria, you are always so kind to me and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!! I love that Kingsolver quote!


message 29: by DeB (new)

DeB MaRtEnS I was twisting in the wind about this Hoffman book - haven't loved her latest either, so I am so delighted to have just now read this heart grabbing review of yours. Thank you for the offer of "hope". Nothing better in a novel!


Lily S. Now after finishing it my opinion really changed a bit for the better


Larry H DeB wrote: "I was twisting in the wind about this Hoffman book - haven't loved her latest either, so I am so delighted to have just now read this heart grabbing review of yours. Thank you for the offer of "hop..."

DeB, I loved this one a great deal, but it was definitely bleak at the start. Still, it was so good to read another wonderful Hoffman novel.


Larry H Lily S. wrote: "Now after finishing it my opinion really changed a bit for the better"

Glad to hear it, Lily!


Kathleen Fabulous review, Larry. This is my first Hoffman book, but certainly the first of many. She had me from page one. I highly recommend it, too.


Larry H Kathleen wrote: "Fabulous review, Larry. This is my first Hoffman book, but certainly the first of many. She had me from page one. I highly recommend it, too."

Thanks so much, Kathleen! She is such a prolific writer, and while I don't enjoy her historical novels as much as some of her older ones, there is a quite a body of work there for you to enjoy!


message 35: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat Tutt I just finished this book, and I agree with you wholeheartedly! Every time it started to feel like too much, there was just a bit of hope to keep you going. When I saw you had reviewed this book, I couldn't wait to read your thoughts, since you always write such great reviews. Well put, as always. :-)


Larry H Cat wrote: "I just finished this book, and I agree with you wholeheartedly! Every time it started to feel like too much, there was just a bit of hope to keep you going. When I saw you had reviewed this book, I..."

Thanks so much, Cat! I thought this was such a beautiful book, even at its most hopeless. So glad you enjoyed!!


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