Posted by: Jeanie F | July 18, 2011

Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh

This novel tells the story of a priest who gets caught in the child molestation accusations in the Catholic church  throughout the past decade. This was almost enough to cause me to pass it over; I don’t enjoy stories in which children are injured or endangered.

However, I happened to read Greg’s review at The New Dork Review of Books and decided to give it a try. I would recommend that you take a look at his review if you’re interested in this book, which is much more complete than mine will be.

While I can’t say that I share all of his enthusiasm for Faith, I agree that the book is an interesting and thought-provoking read, one that deals sensitively with a difficult issue. It is also a good story, one in which I was completely engaged from beginning to end.

My problem with the book is with the author’s decision to tell the story from the point of view of the accused priest’s sister, a device that didn’t work well for me. I’ve tried to understand why this particular narrator was chosen. Sheila, the sister, goes back after the accusation is resolved and reconstructs the events by talking with the people involved. For me, this convoluted way of telling the story got in the way and was a distraction. The narrator had to keep explaining when and how she received the information. Frankly, I simply couldn’t believe that the principal characters in the story would have divulged so much information to the priest, Art’s, sister. She is not portrayed as a particularly warm or empathic person, one to engender such confidences from virtual strangers.  

I think an omniscient narrator – or possibly the use of multiple narrators, which has become popular lately – could have told the story in a more straightforward and believeable manner. It would have improved the story significantly for me.

Having said that, I wouldn’t let this prevent anyone from reading the book – just be prepared to suspend a bit of your own disbelief as you read.

Grade: B


Responses

  1. I liked this one a lot and thought the story flowed well. I thought the sister worked in this one, but I was curious why she had chosen her to tell the story.

  2. I liked the story, too, but I didn’t believe the characters, especially Kath, would have been so forthcoming with Sheila. It wasn’t enough to ruin the book, just a distraction.


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