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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Haigh's Newest Dissects Faith, Family

(Image from Indiebound)

Although the two have never been close, Sheila McGann has always felt great affection for her older half-brother, Arthur Breem. She admires his quiet kindness, his even temperament, and his steadfast devotion to the Catholic Church. As a brother, as a person, as a priest, he's always been above reproach. Which is why Sheila's so shocked when Art's accused of molesting the young grandson of a woman in his suburban Boston parish. Despite the constant headlines accusing other priests of similar acts, Sheila refuses to believe her brother's capable of such a thing.

The accusation causes a rift in the already turbulent McGann Family. Tim McGann's so ravaged by alcoholism he barely remembers he has a stepson, let alone that Art's been accused of such a heinous crime. But the news shatters Mary, who's so pious she arrives thirty minutes early to every Mass so she can "say a rosary and frown at the late-comers" (182). She's always been so proud of her oldest son, the priest. Now, she can hardly show her face in public. Mike McGann's never felt comfortable with his half-brother and Abby, his wife, has never taken to the Church or the McGanns. The scandal adds fuel to both arguments, causing so much tension that Mike can't stand to be at home, a fact that leads to even bigger problems. Sheila's caught somewhere in the middle. She doesn't want to believe her gentle brother would hurt a child. However dysfunctional her family is, Sheila's sure they're not that far gone.

In an effort to prove Art's innocence, Sheila starts digging into her brother's life, examining every minute detail - the thoughts he so often keeps to himself, the actions that look so pure on the surface, the every intention of a man who has pledged his life to the service of God. Mostly, she questions Art's interactions with Kath Conlon and her 8-year-old son, Aidan. Art claims he was counseling Kath, trying to help her beat a fierce drug addiction. He says he looked after the boy like a doting father would. But is it true? Or did Art have a more sinister purpose, as Kath claims? As Sheila combs through the evidence, desperate to exonerate her brother, she finds herself confronting the deep, dark secrets her family's been concealing for years.

Faith, Jennifer Haigh's newest, tells the compelling story of one family's refusal to see what's right in front of them. It's about the corrosive nature of secrets, of lies, and the healing, if painful, path to the truth. Haigh uses flawed characters, few of whom are even likable, to spin her tale. Despite their churlishness, they somehow make us care. Still, the story lacked a little something for me. I'm sure I missed some of the novel's subtle complexities because of my unfamiliarity with Catholicism, but it's more than that - I found the book so depressing, so sad really, that I can't say I enjoyed it. Faith held my attention, it just didn't do much more. In the end, it was just okay for me.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little bit of Faithful Place by Tana French.)

Grade: C+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, sexual content and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Faith from the generous folks at Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours, for whom this review was written.


  1. Wanted to popover to say Congrats. You've been award the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award.

    Stop by my blog to claim your banner.

  2. Ooh, this might be the first time I recall that I strongly disagree with you--guess it would make for a boring world if we all liked the same things, but I was utterly taken with this book. I love Haigh's other books and Faith was no exception. once I started reading it, every moment spent away from it felt like a moment wasted.

  3. Virginia - Thanks!

    As ... - Well, we can't agree ALL the time. That WOULD be boring :)

  4. I've read several reviews of FAITH and I'm interested to read it sometime this summer. I just got through reading FAITHFUL PLACE and I can see how this one would make you think of the other. That whole Irish gloom thing and the family dynamics.

  5. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a good pick for you. Hopefully your next read will be a better fit!


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