Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
-“ANTHEM” by Leonard Cohen
Sometimes a book is so powerful that it makes you feel both full and empty at the same time. You’re over halfway done and you just can’t put it down. Nothing can distract you from the world that this book has brought you into. As you near the end, you feel anxious. Reading faster and faster, as if it’s a race to get to the end, but wanting to savor every last word. And then you hit that moment where your eyes brim with tears that uncontrollably slide down your cheek and you feel satisfied that it ended in such a perfect and powerful way but vacant because now its over. Now you have to leave the mystery and appeal of this outside world and face reality until you stumble, once again, upon another book that makes you feel this way.
I haven’t felt this way about very many books. If you check out my Goodreads account, you’ll see that only a select number of books out of the many that I’ve read have made it to the “Favorites” list. And I can say that with certainty, Faithful by Alice Hoffman has a spot on that list. My five star rating of the novel may seem a little biased, as I have read three of Alice Hoffman’s many novels previously and have loved each of them. However, Faithful is something different. While Hoffman is generally a fantasy and realistic fiction writer with a stronger focus on the former of the genres, Faithful focuses on cold hard realistic fiction with only a thin layer of fantasy bringing magic to the story. As I am more of a realistic fiction fan that one of fantasy, this novel was certainly more my style.
The story of Faithful follows Shelby Richmond over the course of ten years as she struggles to get herself back from a life altered by a fateful accident. The car crash happened on an icy night during Shelby and her best friend Helene Boyd’s senior year of high school. While Shelby survived the accident with little physical damage, Helene never woke up and is condemned to life in a coma. Shelby, who believes it should have been her to die, feels immense guilt that she is living and Helene is not. She spends her days locked away in her parents basement trying to understand why she wasn’t the one to die. How long does it take to heal a broken heart? And how can you move on from the guilt of surviving an accident that killed one of the people you loved most in the world?
These are the questions that Hoffman strives to answer through the story of Shelby Richmond. Faithful is a tale of heartbreak, redemption, and the struggle to let go of the past and accept happiness. It concentrates on the bond between a mother and daughter, a common theme in Hoffman’s works, along with finding love in unexpected places at unexpected times. Heartbreak is a powerful force. It can happen at any time, in any way, and is something we all must face at one point or another. Hoffman highlights the immense pain of guilt and loss, but affirms that it is possible to recover from such hurt through perseverance and simply letting time continue to pass. The saying time heals all wounds is true, but it takes more than time just to create happiness.
Shelby grows from a person who fears love to one who greets it with open arms. Her journey to find love may be long, but her guardian angel helps her through every step of the way and she learns to see love in places she neglected before.
As someone who is currently dealing with heartbreak, I can say that Faithful truly touched my heart. It reached into a place I’ve been fighting not to feel, and granted me the acceptance to deal with the pain and hope for the future. I believe that anyone who is dealing directly with heartbreak or is helping a loved one cope with it should read this novel. Hoffman proves that even in the most miserable of times, there is hope for the future, and a chance at joy again. As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. If Shelby can do it, you can do it too. While the novel has a happy, almost fairytale like ending, it is realistic and achievable. Shelby Richmond proves that beautiful things can come from brokenness; it just takes patience and hard work.
So to anyone out there, who, like me, is trying to heal a broken heart, I strongly urge you to read Faithful. It is a story of redemption unlike any you’ve heard before. You will easily grow attached to Shelby’s confused yet caring personality and see that like her, there is hope for you too. Time will heal you, and hard work can get you anywhere. But most importantly, remember that you are loved.