Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: Faith

Author: Jennifer Haigh

Format: ARC
Published: Harper; May 2011
Pages: 336
Genre: Literary fiction
Grade: A
Source: Harper for a TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: Haigh (Mrs. Kimble) explores the intersections of public scandal and personal tragedy in her fourth novel. Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family. Arthur Breen became a priest when such a career path was considered a logical, honorable choice for an intelligent young Catholic man. Sophisticated and worldly in many ways, utterly childlike in others, Arthur is unprepared to cope with secular life when he's accused of abusing a young boy and is subsequently asked to leave his parish. Arthur's younger half-sister, Sheila, in a quasi-omniscient style, narrates the complicated, devastating history that shaped Arthur's life, both personally and spiritually. Although this all-too-plausible story offers a damning commentary on the Church's flaws and its leaders' hubris, Haigh is concerned less with religious faith than with the faith Arthur's family has—and loses, and in some cases regains—in one another. At its broadest, this is a frank and timely story of familial and institutional heredity; at its most personal, the novel is a devastating portrait of a priest who discovers that he's also a man. 

My Take: Religion is a hot button issue for many people. It is not something I normally talk about here but as my most recent read, Faith, talks about it immensely, and the faith I was raised in specifically, it will be discussed here today. Haigh is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read every single one of her back-catalog books, most recently having read and reviewed The Condition here last year (click title for my review). So to say I was eager to read her newest release is an understatement. However, reading the synopsis I took a big gulp. These are normally the hot button issues I avoid. As I’ve been noticing this year, I am so glad I jumped right in and pushed myself anyway because I loved this book!

Sheila is our narrator and sister of an accused Catholic priest. She assumes you know the story they are talking about and in a sense we do. In the news for the last decade there has been Catholic priest after priest brought forth as a child molester. As someone who knows and loves priests firsthand this is sad and disheartening to watch. It is shameful. You become outraged. Often it is the family of the child we think of first, not that of the priest. Of course the family of the priest is adversely affected too. Sheila takes us through her family’s story when her brother, Father Art Breem, becomes an accused priest in the Boston Archdiocese in the early 2000s.

Father Art loves children and the child who accused him he had a special fondness for. The story didn’t look good. He didn’t really stand a chance. Sheila and her other brother Mike go through their own issues in dealing with the tragedy of the news outbreak, as well as having to deal with the fallout for their mother who is torn apart by the news. Taking aside the obvious heartache and outrage of the family for the young child, this book also takes you through what it is like to imagine what it would mean when something like this happens in your own family, when one of your own supposedly commits an act like this, it would put your life into a tailspin. Would you automatically go to their defense or would you automatically accuse them? It brings all kinds of family dynamics, religion notwithstanding, to the forefront. 

Bottom line, if your bookclub can handle discussions of religion, I cannot think of a better summer bookclub pick!

Cover Lust: I think this cover is perfect for this book. How many families have the wall of photos depicting their lives and shared memories? And this book, as a reflection of a family and the bond, I think this cover makes a great representation as such.

For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC Tour Schedule


  1. I've never read any of Haigh's novels...I'm starting to think I need to fix that.

  2. I just read Baker Towers by Haigh and can't wait to read more of her books! This one is on my wishlist now! Great review!

  3. Though I've seen lots of glowing reviews for Faith, I've been a little hesitant to add it to my wishlist; I was also raised Catholic and somehow feel personally invested in the hot-button issues surrounding this, as you said! But it sounds like this is a worthwhile, sensitive and compelling read. Thanks for a great review!

  4. I've always tried to avoid reading religious books for the obvious reasons, and while I wasn't raised Catholic or anything, I feel like I need to give this book a chance after reading your review.

  5. I'm so glad you were rewarded for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone! Everyone seems to love, LOVE this book, so obviously Haigh has done something right in handling the discussion of religion.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  6. i saw another review for faith but admit to be a bit reluctant to read it because of the religious angle. that said, both your review and the other have me interested. i'm not sure if i'll undertake this one during the summer but the cover will say with me and i'll grab it if i see it at the library. :)

  7. I need to read this after reading all these great reviews for it. Everyone raves about this book! I also was hesitant when I saw what it was about, but after reading your review I think I'll jump on board and read it.

  8. I'm anxious to read this book - I have a feeling it's very emotional.

  9. I have a few reviews but I do not think I will change my opinion. Nope not the book for me

  10. This book is definitely in my top ten for the year- I definitely need to go back and read her earlier novels.

  11. I'm a big fan of Haigh's too, and was very excited to get the chance to read this for the tour. I had some issues with it - mostly in terms of style, not story - but it's still one of the best novels I've read this year.

  12. I haven't read Haigh's books yet but I have one on my wish list. I'm not sure this is the one I'd want to start with.

  13. Hi Stacy - if I was to recommend a starter Haigh book, I would recommend Mrs. Kimble. That'll hook you from the get go!

  14. I am dying to read this book! I loved The Condition and have great things about her other books as well.

  15. This definitely sounds like a book I must read. Off to add it to my Kindle asap!
    Judy, South Africa


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