Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Faith - Jennifer Haigh (Audio)

I've put off writing this review for weeks.  Only now, when my nice little buffer of reviews is dwindling, did I force myself to just sit down and get it out.  I'm a little nervous, actually, that I will not properly communicate my emotions.

Strangely, when this book first hit the blogs and went on a virtual tour, I was uninspired.  It all sounded fine, but as most of you know, when you have hundreds of books vying for your time, something's gotta give.  Only when Jen from Devourer of Books reviewed the audio, and said it was one of the best books she'd read in a long time, did I give it serious consideration.  She is clever that way, Jen.

Synopsis:  Sheila McGann grew up in a blue collar Catholic family in Boston, where fathers drink, mothers are the silent glue that holds families together, and the pride of the community is the local boy who enters the priesthood.  Sheila's older brother Art was such a boy - a compassionate man dedicated to serving God and loved by his parishioners.  Until one day in 2002, when he is caught up in a city-wide persecution of priests accused of molesting children in their care. 

Sheila, once estranged from her family, comes back into the fold to understand what has happened, to tell us Art's story, and the story of her family that has been irreparably damaged.  She tells of the paranoia, the revulsion, the denial, the suspicions, the unearthed family secrets, the innocent and the guilty.

My thoughts:  "Faith is a choice".  These are the words, written by Ms. Haigh, that keep echoing through my mind weeks after listening to this astounding piece of literature.  All of the dusty, dark corners of that word are explored until you feel that your mind is going to implode from all the questions.  Who do we trust in our lives?  What would it take to abandon our faith?  What is true and what is only our biases and misconceptions working against us? How much stress can a family endure before it collapses?  If someone you loved were accused of these types of atrocities, who would you believe, and what lengths would you go to get at the truth?

As you work your way through the events that affected the McGanns, it is hard not to jump to conclusions, quickly deciding who is the guilty party.  Again, it is unsettling how our biases take over in cases like this.  But as the novel proceeds, your opinions change.  With more information, we realize the damage a hasty judgement can do.   

I was not raised a Catholic.  I became one after I'd married my husband, a Polish cradle-Catholic.  Our kids were baptised Catholic and attend a Catholic school.  All of the issues that came to a head in Boston in 2002 haunt our religion nationwide to this day.  But while all of the issues discussed here hit close to home for me, you neither have to be a Catholic nor be a particularly religious person to appreciate the messages.  There is no brow-beating or sermonizing here.  Just a powerful vehicle that inspires self-examination. 

A word about the audio production:  Our narrator, Therese Plummer, was a perfect selection for this book.  While a new narrator for me, she is experienced in the field, and managed to project the right amount of calm and grief.  Her portrayal of a blue collar Boston accent was pretty entertaining (and while I'm not the expert, it sounded spot-on).  She made the experience one that I looked forward to every time I donned the ear-buds.

5 out of 5 stars                 

 

21 comments:

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Oh I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I haven't read it but I' e heard nothing but good things.

caite said...

I must say that when I first read about this book, I dismissed it out right.
let's me just say that I think it deal with an issue that is without doubt real and extremely important but one that has, to my mind been incredibly and unfairly mishandled in the media.
but your review has almost made me reconsider.

Beth F said...

I too have been on the fence about reading and/or listening to Faith. You may be tipping the balance, but not enough to make me run right out and get a copy.

JoAnn said...

I'll get to this... it's just a matter of time!. After listening to two of Haigh's previous books, she has become an 'audio author' for me.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Wow, I can't believe you joined everyone else in the universe giving this 5/5 stars. I keep waiting however for someone to tell me how it is different from Doubt because I keep thinking, "been there, heard that."

Anita said...

I have a copy of this book on my shelf, sent by the publisher with a promise of a review, but not a date.
I too am a converted Catholic, but before I met and married my cradle Catholic husband. We too sent our kids to Catholic school, pk-8th, or in the case of my son 6th grade. I have my own personal issues with the Church, and they run deep. Faith is a choice, and I know I will have many feeling when reading this book.
Thank you for a wonderful review.

Alyce said...

I had been offered this one for review but had a knee-jerk reaction when seeing the book description. This is not a book I would normally read, but it seems like many reviewers are liking it.

reviewsbylola said...

I had absolutely no desire to read this book at first either, but the amount of good reviews I have read have slowly been changing my mind. It sounds like an inspiring book.

Julie P. said...

I love your review. Like you, FAITH was an incredibly powerful read for me. Ms. Haigh is just amazing!!! You need to read her other books too!

Zibilee said...

This book deals with a lot of touchy subjects, and I am a little sad that we didn't choose it for book club. I think there could have been some great discussion with it, but I think we need to push for it for our next read. It sounds like an amazing read. I think you did an awesome job with the review as well!

bermudaonion said...

My mom is Catholic, but I was raised Baptist. I need to read this soon. Julie has threatened to challenge me publicly if I don't.

Carrie K. said...

I really wish my library had this one on audio!

Matt said...

Religion is no doubt one issue that still divides people, especially family. Although I usually avoid books in this subject, this one does have an appeal. I should go check it out at work. :)

Jenny said...

I'm convinced I MUST read this! I'm not catholic but I'm thinking I'll still find it powerful.

Jenners said...

Don't you love when you take a bloggers advice and end up loving the book? I'm glad you had this experience. I suppose I shall have it too … you were pretty convincing yourself.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

Yaaaay! I'm so glad you loved it too. Now we both need to explore more Haigh!

Melissa said...

This sounds interesting. I've seen it mentioned a few other places too, but never really read what it was about. I can see how this could be a love/hate type book though.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm driving this weekend from Florida to Virginia (I know, I know, Irene is here) and I need to download a new book. I read a review on Age 30+ a Handful of Books today as well, and I definitely need to get this one!

Kathleen said...

This one is already on my list and even more so after reading your review and getting your recommendation!

Laurie C said...

It's always good to have an audio-specific review. I like Jennifer Haigh's books, but I am going to try the audio for this one, on your rec. I'm sure it will be excellent.

Ceska said...

Wonderful story of the catholic church and the sexual abuse crisis told from the eyes of the family of the accused priest. The story is told from the prospective of the priest and his sister and brother each of whom has an agenda. Great descriptions of the Boston area.