Jennifer Haigh made me mad and sad after reading her latest novel Faith. Mad for how the story unfolded and sad because some of the characters are left with overwhelming feelings of guilt. Feelings that can never be eased.
The book centers on the 2002 abuse scandal that rocked the Boston archdiocese. Priests were accused of being child molesters left, right, and sideways. A lot of the allegations were true, but some weren't. The accusation is enough to make a person a pariah. In this book, the McGann family is forced to question one of their own.
Arthur "Art" Breen is the jewel of his mother's eye. He chose to become a priest at an early age, beginning his seminary training as a teenager. She beams with pride telling her friends and family that her son is a priest. But Art has always been a defacto member of the McGann family ever since his mom married Ted McGann after a failed first marriage. Art's siblings, Mike and Sheila, know they belong. They know they have a place in the McGann family. Sheila has always been the closest to Art, but always feels like she has to choose sides.
Sides have to be picked when Art, now middle-aged, is accused of molesting a boy he had befriended. Mike and his wife Abby are quick to believe the worst. Sheila, having always been in the middle, doesn't know what the truth is. The accusation causes everyone, with the exception of his mother, to question their faith in Art. He isn't a McGann 100 percent of the way, who knows what is in the other half of him?
What made me mad about this book is Art refuses to defend himself. Throughout the book you will be questioning whether or not he is guilty. I didn't know what to think myself. Is it natural for a man to pay such close attention to child who isn't a family member? I know evil can exist within a family, but that isn't the situation we are dealing with here. But I wanted him to at least put up a fight. Perhaps it's the mentality of a priest to always be humble and have faith that everything will work itself out.
Art never gave himself a chance at love. Love is something he didn't want after being sexually abused as a child. He knows love from his immediate family, but intimacy is something he has feared since childhood. Being a priest allows him to put his faith in God, instead of a person. But befriending the troubled Kath and her son Aidan puts all of that into question. Taking Aidan on trips and watching him after school is glimpse into the life he could have had. But is that glimpse a sin or a test of his faith? If he had kept his distance from Kath and Aidan, would his actions have been questioned?
This one was hard to put down. I didn't quite know what to expect, because this is my first time reading a novel by Jennifer Haigh. And, all I can say is WOW! The entire book is a punch to the gut. It has elements of mystery novel, mixed with an engrossing family drama. The book is essentially the gospel of the McGann family. Whose side are you on? If you're not on my side, you're not my family! Everyone questions their faith not just in God, but in each other. Put this one on your list!
Rating: O.M.G !!!
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours. For more information on author Jennifer Haigh visit http://www.jenniferhaigh.com/