#336 ~ Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Published by: Harper

Published on: May 2011

Page Count: 336

Genre: fiction

My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher for me to participate in the author’s book tour.

Available Formats: Hardcover & eBook

tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Jennifer Haigh’s host on her TLC Book Tour. This tour is to celebrate her new novel, Faith.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.

My Review

I am a cradle Catholic. My parents were always active in our local parish. We even attended what we called Family Camp, a week long family retreat run by Fr. R, a Roman Catholic priest I loved to death. With all the typical boredom associated with having to go to Mass every week and not a small amount of ever-present guilt, my faith life, that of my family and that of our family’s friends was a stable, comforting and accepting place to grow up. It wasn’t until I was an adult when the sexual abuse scandals hit home. I believe I was in college when Fr. R, a man who made faith tangible to me, was forced out of the priesthood because of sexual misconduct. This revelation devastated me. I loved him, but what he did sickened me. How to reconcile that? Then, not too many years ago, my Dad called me. I love him, but he never calls me with good news. He called to let me know that the priest who led me through Confirmation and got me involved in the Church in a more adult capacity had been defrocked because of sexual abuse that took place during his early priesthood. Again, how do you reconcile a man you loved with a man who harmed and terrorized other children? When you continue to love the man who did these things, you feel like a traitor to those who suffered. Turning your back on him makes you feel like a traitor to all of the good things he brought into your life. It’s my experience that the Church’s child sex abuse scandals hurts each and everyone of us. It is this personal experience that I brought to the table when I began reading Faith.

Sheila McGann, the oldest child from her mother’s second marriage, rarely returns home to Boston. Although she loves her brothers, Art Breen from her mother’s first marriage, and Mike, her younger full-brother, she has escaped from the dysfunction of growing up in an alcoholic father and a devoutly Catholic mother. It is no secret to either Shelia or Mike that their mother favors her oldest son. Art was much older than both of them. He joined the seminary when they were little. On top of that, Sheila has long since left the church and is unmarried, much to her mother’s disapproval. She is obligated to return to Boston when she discovers that her brother has been accused of sexually abusing a young boy who was in his care. Sheila, knowing her brother like she does, does not believe Art to be capable of such an atrocity. While one might think that this would bring mother and daughter closer together, it does not. Sheila’s convictions also put her at odds with Mike. He questions Art’s innocence so much that he attempts to investigate the case and learn for sure one way or the other. As the father of three sons, he can’t stomach the idea of anyone abusing little children and living. Even the bonds that do exist in the McGann family are hobbled by the news.

This is my first Jennifer Haigh novel, so I didn’t anymore know what to expect from her writing than I did from her approach to this subject matter. I was blown away by the beauty of her words. There was something so familiar about her turns of phrase and about the way she unraveled this story of abuse and family secrets. I simply couldn’t resist reading with a pen in hand to mark especially meaningful passages. I’d like to share two of  them with you:

In my fantasy we sit together in her quiet kitchen, just us two. I open my heart to her and lay it on the table between us. I am still child enough to wish it were possible, adult enough to know it isn’t. We are too much ourselves, the people we have always been. (page 22)

Art’s news was unspeakable, by him or by anyone. I didn’t take this personally. If I felt excluded, injured and aggrieved, that bolus of emotion was at least familiar. It attends all my dealings with my family, and theirs with me. Every one of us limps from old wounds. In a perverse way, they entertain us. We poke each other’s tender places with a stick. (page 82)

The sexual abuse scandals leave the Catholic Church vulnerable and most deserving of vicious attack. I was prepared for the worst. What I got was an insightful piece of literature that honestly reflects the complexities involved with the Church’s deepest shame. It is written from Sheila’s point of view as a confessional memoir. She gleans what she can from those directly involved and intuited that which couldn’t be known from what was true to the character of those involved. She doesn’t cut herself any more slack than she gives others. It simply is an incredible read.

This book has had a profound effect on me. It is more than just about the child sexual abuse scandals. It’s about the ugliness of secrets. It’s about overlooking that which does not fit your picture of your life. It’s about regret and redemption. Faith leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of how it feels to be Catholic today. Reflecting on my reading, it was as if Jennifer Haigh knew my heart, has witnessed my personal struggles with faith. It allows me the opportunity to see myself and my Church from a less biased distance. Faith is timely today’s world, but the artistry with which the story is  told and written will keep this novel relevant and worthwhile for generations to come.

Jennifer Haigh’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 10th: Booking Mama

Wednesday, May 11th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness

Thursday, May 12th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Friday, May 13th: 5 Minutes for Books

Monday, May 16th: Hospitable Pursuits

Tuesday, May 17th: The House of the Seven Tails

Wednesday, May 18th: nomadreader

Thursday, May 19th: Bookchickdi

Friday, May 20th: Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog

Monday, May 23rd: As I turn the pages

Tuesday, May 24th: Books in the City

Wednesday, May 25th: Life In Review

Friday, May 27th: The Prissy Book Snob

Monday, May 30th: Bookstack

Tuesday, May 31st: Confessions of a Rambling Mind

Wednesday, June 1st: Colloquium

Thursday, June 2nd: Proud Book Nerd

Friday, June 3rd: My Reading Room

Saturday, June 4th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Monday, June 6th: Reading Between the Lines

Tuesday, June 7th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner

Wednesday, June 8th: Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, June 9th: The Book Chick

Friday, June 10th: BookNAround

Tuesday, June 14th: Rundpinne

Wednesday, June 15th: For the love of books

Thursday, June 16th: Literate Housewife

Friday, June 17th: Amused By Books


  • At 2011.06.16 12:03, Xe Sands said:

    Thank you for not only sharing your thoughts on FAITH, but the personal experience that shaped you into the person reading this book. Knowing where you were in relation to the content of this book and then reading your impressions of it deepened the experience for me as well.

    I was not planning on reading FAITH before your review. Several reviewers and bloggers I know have raved about it, but I just wasn’t feeling drawn to it and thought perhaps it didn’t have much to offer me. Your review has completely altered my perspective and it’s now on my TBR pile.

    Thanks again!
    –Xe Sands

    • At 2011.06.16 13:25, Cyndi Tefft said:

      What a stirring and beautifully written review. I really liked how you started out by detailing your background before delving into the book.

      Well done! This is a powerful tribute to what sounds like an incredibly well-written novel.


      • At 2011.06.16 18:16, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

        Wow, you had the right background for this book. I’m sure all of that had to be extremely painful for you. I want to read this book soon.

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        • At 2011.06.16 21:39, Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said:

          I’m so glad you mentioned your own history here. I’ve had several people say to me that they were leery to read this book because they worried it might be “Catholic bashing.” It seems to me that worry was unfounded. I can’t wait to start this book myself.

          Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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          • At 2011.06.16 21:46, Michelle said:

            I’m a lapsed Catholic and have a similar background to yours. The priest who married me and baptized my oldest child, the one who supported me when I was doubting the most was not defrocked but taken out of his parish and shoved into a desk job for life due to allegations of misconduct. I still cannot reconcile the man I trusted and knew with the crimes of which he has been suspected.

            One of the things I loved about FAITH is the fact that we will honestly never know how many innocent priests were unfairly defrocked or penalized because someone wanted a quick buck. With something so scandalous, with a Church that was doing almost anything to minimize the headlines, there had to be people who took advantage of that. It is such an unfortunate situation for SO many reasons. I think Jennifer Haigh did a fantastic job of laying open this possibility without excusing those who were guilty.

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            • At 2011.06.17 10:04, Beth Hoffman said:

              Excellent, excellent review! I really appreciated that you shared a bit of your own history.

              • At 2011.06.18 22:41, Florinda said:

                I thought this was an insightful novel with an original perspective on a complex story – I think the same applies to your review. Jennifer Haigh is one of my must-read authors. I’m glad you’ve discovered her, and hope you’ll catch up with her other novels!

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                  • At 2011.07.01 21:22, Diane@BibliophileBytheSea said:

                    Jen, I enjoyed your review of FAITH, so much. I, too, thought this book was so well done.

                    (Required, will not be published)

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