Jennifer Haigh has become one of my favorite authors. Years ago, my neighbor lent me Baker Towers, and, although it didn’t sound like something I’d like, I read it out of a sense of obligation. I loved it so much that I convinced one of my book groups to select it…and then read it again! I borrowed my mom’s copy of Mrs. Kimble and enjoyed that as well. Last summer, I borrowed The Condition (from the same neighbor!) and became wrapped up in that story also. Haigh has a talent for describing the intricate and complex relationships between family members through interesting and compelling stories.
Faith is set in Boston during the peak of the priest molestation scandal in 2002. Sheila McGann, brought up in an Irish Catholic family that she escaped years before to move to Philadelphia, tells her family’s story. Her older brother, Art, chose the priesthood at age 14 and has lived happily within its confines for many decades. His family is shocked when Art is accused of molesting a young boy, like so many of his colleagues. Sheila hurries home to Boston to find out the truth about what happened, but she quickly realizes that truth is a complicated and elusive goal.
Art doesn’t answer Sheila’s questions directly and doesn’t defend himself the way that Sheila thinks he should. Their younger brother, Mike, who barely knew Art as a child, seems to believe the accusations and makes moves to shield his own sons from Art. Sheila’s mother just wants to pretend that none of this is happening. As Sheila digs deeper into the details of what’s been going on since she left town – and discovers some long-held secrets within her family – the truth seems even more complex than she ever could have imagined.
Merely describing the plot doesn’t do any of Haigh’s books justice because they delve into the intricacies of family life. Faith is no different; it is about truth and loyalty, love and family, and of course, faith. As with The Condition, this new novel also deals with family secrets and the tendency of family members not to communicate with each other, in spite of their love. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book filled with insights into family relationships and spiked with suspense and surprises. Faith is an excellent choice for book groups; our neighborhood group delved into its complexities for hours.