Saturday, October 22, 2016

Early Critique: "Faithful" by Alice Hoffman

Disclaimer: I was given a free advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

Expected Publication: November 1st

Although I am very much a fan of Alice Hoffman's, the beginning of this book had me worried. Shelby is one of those characters you want to reach out and shake, just to get her riled up enough to do something... you know, other than self-sabotage her aspirations or even possible prospects for the future. Many of you will find yourself reminded of that person from your life who never seems to move on, and the more I read about Shelby during the start of the book, the more frustrated I became.

As it happens, Shelby does eventually progress into a dynamic character, even though I was preparing myself for the possibility she wouldn't. Faithful reminds me of the author's other works with the style of story progression, so fellow fans should also be pleased- I read Illumination Night after this one which followed a similar narrative path. Despite it's similarities, Faithful appeals to the animal lover in me with Shelby's similar passion for dog rescue.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
'Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
'What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
'Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.'

One character I was irked at from the start was Ben, Shelby's dealer, who does help Shelby grow somewhat, but remains problematic in my eyes due to his voyeuristic tendencies. If I found out anyone had been watching my friend in her room, without her knowledge, I wouldn't want to be friends with them- or have any sort of relationship with them, for that matter. It's one thing to notice your neighbor is watching Wheel of Fortune when you glance in the direction of their house- it's quite another to continue watching them because you feel like you're in lust with them.

Because I'm a bit of a cynic, part of me was rooting Shelby towards a more ambiguous ending. Despite the ending of this book being picture perfect (perhaps a little too perfect), I do appreciate an ending that reveals the changeable, yet fixed nature of real life- not everything turns out in the end. Our disappointments and failures are part of what make us who we are, and I felt by the end of the book some of the characters had changed a bit too much for realism's sake.

Faithful is a magical story that will make you want to believe in second, third, and fourth chances. Though I had problems with some elements of the story, it came together beautifully and in ways I hadn't quite anticipated. I was prepared for a bit more uncertainty about Shelby's future, but I was instead treated to a sort of role reversal in terms of dynamic and static characters. If you're looking for a magical realism novel that ends on a sincerely hopeful note, I would strongly advise Faithful for your next book binge.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent magical realism novel about new beginnings, dogs, and hope!

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for sexual assault, violence, and rightful thievery of mistreated mutts.

Page Count: 272 pages


  1. I'm 20 pages from the end of this one and agree with you. Barring some massive twist, I feel like the story is going to be a bit too pat. I've appreciated Shelby's journey and the uniqueness of her that Hoffman does so well, but the fact that I put the book down this close to the end, is not a great sign. Kind of like, 'I'm happy where she is, don't get cheesy, please.' If that makes sense!

    1. Yes- Hoffman generally goes for more realism in her endings, so I was kind of surprised at this one. It is a bit on the cheesy side, but part of me loved it because sometimes I do want this author's books to end in Disney fashion. Generally if I put a book down that near the ending, it is bad news, as you mentioned. I was surprised at how high the ratings were for Faithful on Goodreads, as I did like this, but I didn't think it was her best work (I prefer Turtle Moon and The Dovekeepers).
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Catherine!
      ~Litha Nelle

  2. How did I miss this? Faithful is next up on my book queue. I also added At Risk to my ever growing Hoffman ebook collection a couple of days ago. It was $1.99. Thanks for sharing your review. :)

    1. I hope you enjoy it! It's a bit more cheerful than her other books. The first book I remember reading by Alice Hoffman is At Risk- and it's a great one, as far as I remember.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


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