Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Page Count: 258
Publication Date: 2016
Category/Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.99)
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
*Questions are a mix from Rabbit Hole Blogger and the publisher. Questions may contain spoilers.
- Why do you think that Alice Hoffman opened Faithful with the following lyrics from “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen? “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” How do you think this connects to the novel? To Shelby?
- Love manifests in a few strong ways: the love between a mother and daughter (Shelby and Sue, Maravelle and Jasmine); the love between partners (Ben and Shelby; Sue and Dan); friendship (Shelby and Maravelle). Which love brings the characters the most faith or hope? Is there a sort of love in the novel that you find destructive to the characters?
- Is Shelby’s relationship with Ben healthy or unhealthy and for who? How does it impact Shelby’s faith and hope? What about with James?
- Compare the various sayings on all the postcards James left for Shelby throughout the years, as well as when they appear in Shelby’s life. What would your reaction be to these notes? Do you think James knew where Shelby was, both physically and mentally, at the time he was writing them?
- Over the course of the novel, Shelby rescues three dogs, a cat, and steals a poodle for her mother. What compels Shelby to save these animals?
- Discuss the different caretakers that appear in the novel and what kind of caretaker they are. What compels Ben to care for Shelby? Shelby for Maravelle?
- Discuss the title, Faithful. In which ways do the characters show their faith? How does this faith differentiate from religious faith? At what point do you think Shelby finally begins to have faith and hope again?
- What kind of faith do Helene’s visitors have? Why do they make a pilgrimage to her?
- In the first chapter, Shelby says, “I believe in tragedy . . . not miracles” (page 11). Does her opinion change by the novel’s end? What miracles does she experience?
- Discuss Shelby’s visit with Helene toward the novel’s end. What “miracle” do you think she experiences during the visit? What kept her away for so long?