Book Review: Faith

Faith Book Cover
What does faith and family mean to you?

In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the devout McGann family following a horrific, single, unproven accusation. She introduces us to the breakdown of the family with this quote:

“Most of you have heard, by now, what happened to my brother, or a version of it: the alarming events of that spring and summer, the single, vile accusation, still unproven, that made a ruin of his life.”

We know that tragedy can have a profound impact on families, often leading to the destruction of relationships. These relationships are delicate but complex, often hanging in the balance until the unthinkable happens, that one disturbing incident that sends minds and souls reeling.

Sheila McGann has a close relationship with her older brother Art McGann, the popular priest of a large suburban parish. Art was sensitive and seemingly perfectly tailored for a career in the ministry. In the Spring of 2002, priests across Boston’s Archdiocese were accused of sexual molestation of young children. Sheila believes that her brother Art is innocent. Suddenly, more details are revealed and Sheila finds herself searching for the truth and examining deteriorating relationships in a family prone to keeping secrets. Art’s mother, a devout Irish Catholic, believes strongly that her son is innocent. Disturbingly, Sheila’s younger brother Mike thinks Art is guilty of the unthinkable. By nature, some dialogue and subject matter may be disturbing.

Jennifer Haigh’s novel is a powerful treatment of the complexity of family relationships and what happens when faith is in question. The book was well-written, thought-provoking and emotional. The story is tragic, the characters resilient, but vulnerable. The book was suspenseful, so much so, in fact, I turned page after page to reach the conclusion of the story. Of course, I wondered whether the accused was guilty or not. Often, tragedy precedes a better understanding of oneself and one’s interactions with others. Such is the case with this book. I would highly recommend this book to reading groups, anyone interested in psychological fiction, or anyone interested in well-written novels about family.