One cold night in the suburbs of Long Island, Shelby gets into a car crash that nearly kills her best friend Helene. Helene slips into a coma, and Shelby holds herself responsible in a classic case of survivor's guilt. She attempts suicide, is placed in psychiatric care, and released. And this is where Alice Hoffman's Faithful begins, two years later: it focuses on Shelby's redemption. But to be honest, it was not an enjoyable read. Everything wraps up too nicely. Shelby's actions are neither understandable, nor are you sympathetic to her plight. Maybe some readers will feel bad for her, but I found it hard to move beyond pitying Shelby to rooting for her. I finished the book and all I could think was, "ugh." While it is nice to see a happy ending for Shelby; it was so damn predictable. What bothered me the most about the entire book was the rape Shelby faces when she was in psychiatric care. To me, it seemed like lazy storytelling: here is a girl who is clearly struggling, and let's just throw EVERYTHING AWFUL at her. Reminds me of the (spoilers for Game of Thrones) Sansa Stark rape plotline. Seemed to add nothing to the storyline, but the male showrunners thought it would contribute to her character's growth. SMH. Rape should not be the single plotline to show a women's growth out of terrible circumstaneces. As Helene Wecker astutely points out in the NYT Book Review, "It’s a terrible choice on Hoffman’s part, seemingly made only to increase Shelby’s misery. As though Hoffman realizes she’s overreached by adding this dark twist, it’s mentioned again only a handful of times before it vanishes like a bad dream. One wonders why it wasn’t edited out completely." Kirkus Reviews is a bit kinder to Hoffman, writing "A novel full of people—flawed, scarred, scared—discovering how to punish themselves less and connect with others more."
There's nice subplots about Shelby's desire to rescue/steal(?) stray dogs - without facing consequences - and bonding with a coworker's kids. But overall, Faithful falls flat. Rating: ★★