Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: Faith

Last year, I read Jennifer Haigh's The Condition and called it my favorite book of the year. Having just finished another of her books, as early in the year as it is, this may be it.

Faith centers around the child abuse scandal in the Catholic church, specifically Boston in the 2000's when the scandal was exploding in the city. But the novel is really about the McGann family. The oldest son, Art, is a priest who stands accused of abusing a child. His family is divided in their support of him. His brother is disgusted by his mother whose trust in Art's innocence is absolute.

Worse, his sister, Sheila. "If he did it, you'd forgive him," he says to her, and she doesn't deny it.

Sheila narrates the story, assuming an omniscient viewpoint that allows her to tell it from each character's perspective, combining her knowledge of them with the versions they have told her. Faith is another portrait of a dysfunctional family, as sick as it's secrets. Sheila's awareness that by writing it all down, she'll be shattering that silence, had me checking and rechecking the book jacket to be sure this wasn't a memoir.

I thought I knew where the story was going, but was happy to be wrong. Haigh is an expert at depicting the complicated history and specific architecture of family. I am very glad to see she has other novels out so I don't need to wait another year.

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