I have to admit that I am a big fan of Alice Hoffman. While I have not read all of her book, she has written a ton of them, I have read quite a few to get her voice down. When I was notified I would be able to read Faithful early*, I did a happy dance. It took me a bit to get to it, but after finishing, I have to write that I thought it was an ok book, but an ok Hoffman book is still pretty strong compared to other authors.
The story begins with an car accident involving two HS girls- Shelby and Helene. Helene is left brain dead and is propped up in a bed while Shelby walked away with a small broken bone, but a load of guilt. She blames herself and goes into a mental breakdown that lands her in a psych unit, where she is raped by an orderly. It is then that Shelby declares she has lost her soul. She shaves her head and lives most of her life without caring about anyone.
She eventually re-meets Ben Mink her weed dealer who falls for Shelby. Shelby will float throughout her life, eating Chinese food, and looking at the world with a different lens. Eventually she will fall into another family's drama and become the listening post for the kids in the family. Postcards also find their way into Shelby's life, but what do they mean?
As you can tell from the small blurb, I am having a bit of difficulty relaying Shelby's story as it is almost two separate books with one part taking up about a quarter of the book and the rest another story for the final 3/4ths. It all centers on Shelby though as she ages and carries these traumas-accident and then rape- and guilt- for the accident- for all of her life.
Shelby is a complex character and Hoffman does a beautiful job of creating her. She makes seemingly wrong decisions, she keeps trying to be closed off and the world won't let her, and it seems she desperately wants to be free of it all. Some of the other characters are not too developed, but they are in the very real sense minor characters.
What was difficult for me was the premise of a girl without a soul was so good and the books seems to be heading one way, but once she connects with the other family it takes a turn that felt a bit movie of the week. The girl without a soul gets her heart melted by cute kids and rebellious teens. It isn't written like a movie of the week, mind you, but it just felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the book.
It wouldn't be the first Hoffman book I would recommend, but it was still worth the read. I didn't care for the reveal of who was sending the postcards. I won't spoil it, but it would have almost been better without a reveal as it lends itself to the idea of a semi religious angle.
I gave this one only 3 stars.
Here is your Amazon link- Faithful- Alice Hoffman
*I want to thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advanced copy of the book. I received it for free in exchange for an honest review.