Faith: A Novel

Faith: A Novel

4.0 154
by Jennifer Haigh

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It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city's archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.

Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has

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It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city's archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.

Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Sheila's younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila's questions and refuses to defend himself.

As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family's history of silence—and the resilience its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman's quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh's most ambitious novel to date.

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Editorial Reviews

Set in Boston during the 2002 priest sexual abuse scandals, Faith challenges us to look beyond the crimes to examine how human interactions change after the accusations. Sheila McGann, the novel's main character and narrator, is the half-sister of Arthur Breen, a once-popular cleric now ensnared in charges of abusing a young boy. Returning to her family, with whom she has difficult relations, Sheila attempts to support her embattled sibling, but everyone, including Art himself, seems unwilling or emotionally unable to cooperate. Ultimately, this powerful novel is about how one family responds to a devastating crisis. A provocative choice for book clubs.

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Faith 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 154 reviews.
FictionLoverNYC More than 1 year ago
Best book I've read in a long time. Well written, sensitively told family story about a devout Roman Catholic family with buried secrets. I literally couldn't stop reading it, and snuck off to read it whenever I had a free minute. I finished it in one day. I've read and enjoyed all of Jennifer Haigh's novels but this was my favorite. An intelligent, thought provoking page turner.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Haigh sets her story in Boston in 2004, shortly after scandal began to rock the Catholic diocese. Many priests had been accused of sexually abusing young people, and the large Catholic community was devastated. Sheila McGann tells the story of her half-brother, Art Breen, a priest accused by an eight-year-old boy's mother of molesting her son. There is an element of mystery to the novel as Sheila attempts to discover whether the charges are true. Art's mother, a devout Catholic, believes her son could never do what he is accused of. Sheila's brother Mike, a former cop and father of three young boys, is disgusted, believing that no eight-year-old boy could lie about being molested. Sheila supports Art, but has her doubts. The title of the book, Faith, is brilliant, for this is a book not about religious faith, but more about faith in your family. Sheila says to Mike, "Sorry, Mike, but sooner or later you have to decide what you believe." It was a thing I'd always known but until recently had forgotten: that faith is a decision. In its most basic form, it is a choice. I love those lines, because faith really is an active thing. You can grow up attending mass every week, participating in the sacraments, but to really have faith, you have to choose to believe in something. Family is at the heart of this novel, and Sheila's family has its troubles, like most. She says: We are a family of secrets. Without knowing quite how I knew it, I understood what might be said, and what must be quiet. If from the outside the rules appeared arbitrary, from the inside they were perfectly clear. I suspect that Sheila's family is not as unlike other families as she believes. I think many people reading this book will relate to the McGann/Breen family. What I like about Haigh's books is that the characters are so real, you think that you actually know them. Father Art is the most well drawn. He is a lonely man, even as a youth; perhaps being a stepson and stepbrother added to that sense of being different. As a priest, Art cannot marry or have a family of his own, and this isolation hurts him. His loneliness is palpable, and when he meets the young boy and his drug-addicted mother, he feels a sense of family and belonging. The least well drawn character is Art's mother. Sheila and Mike do not like their mother, they make many cutting comments about her, but I was never clear exactly what she had done to warrant this dislike. She seems to be very distant from her children, and perhaps the author made her character less clear to her children to emphasize that distance. Faith is an emotional ride, and it affected me deeply. Days later, I find myself still thinking about Father Art, my heart aching for him. The writing is superb, the characters are so real. It is simply the best book I have read this year. It ranks up with Emma Donoghue's amazing Room in the emotions that I felt when I read it. I grew up in a Catholic family, and that part of the story resonates with me, but you do not have to be Catholic to appreciate the richness of this story. If you have siblings, you will understand the feelings here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first part of this book was slow and I wondered if I had made a mistake buying it. It picked up pace and it really had my attention. It had a very sad turn of events. The Catholic church seems to have no option but to make a settlement. Maybe thats why there is so many lawsuits, some of the alleged molestions going back several years. I recommend reading this book, it will leave you wondering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really kept my interest. It tells the story of a priest accused of child abuse from the point of view of the priest and his family. I recommend it highly.
J-bookclubber More than 1 year ago
This novel is set in Boston during 2002---the days of the "witch hunt" for priests who abused children. An Irish priest is accused. The story is told by his sister, and there are no difficult parts to read about any sexual abuse. His sister investigates the allegations and presents testimony for the reader to judge if the priest was guilty. A younger brother discovers other evidence that is crucial, but he does not reveal it. The plot and characterization is great. My book discussion group enjoyed this novel and the earlier Haigh novel The Condition.
BookCore More than 1 year ago
Ah, the pedophile priest scandal. No matter what you say about it, somebody will be angry at you. I can't think of a single person who isn't disgusted and outraged by child molestation - and rightfully so. The controversy is in the way the Catholic Church responded. Full disclosure time: I'm not Catholic, but my parents are. (They converted after my brother and I were grown up.) More disclosure: I disagree with a lot of the policies of the Catholic Church. (Hey, if I agreed, I'd be Catholic myself.) I will say this: there are some good things about Catholicism - the long tradition of learning and scholarship, the spirit of reaching out to those in need, the vivid imagination that informs their lore, and the sheer beauty of their churches and rituals. BUT - appreciating the good things about Catholicism does not excuse child molestation. "Ever. Nor does it excuse those situations where abuse occurred and the perpetrator was simply moved to another locality, or sent to "treatment" without a court hearing. If nothing else, those kids deserved to have their grievance heard under the laws of this land - I don't care WHO the perp is, he can damn well go to a civilian court (and a civilian prison if found guilty.) Lecture over. Now that I've ticked everybody off, let's talk about the book. The main character, Sheila, is caught between her two brothers - one an accused priest, the other a man who has his own dysfunctional ties to the alleged victim. The story of Sheila is well played - she grew up in this whole Boston Irish Catholic milieu, and it seems like she never did feel comfortable in it, and escaped to live her own kind of life. I can relate to feeling estranged from the atmosphere you grew up in. But Sheila, like most of us, still loves her family, and the crisis and heartbreak draw her right back in. Think about it: a brother you love is accused of a terrible crime. What would be worse: finding out that he did it, or finding out that he was falsely accused and all of your lives were damaged for nothing? It's a pretty intense book, and it will make you think about your own family ties, and the future of the Catholic Church.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Saw a review of the book in the Costco Connection and picked it up on my Nook; could not book the down. The way Jennifer intertwined each of the family members in the story was wonderful. Great read!
SueASA More than 1 year ago
I've read and loved several other books by this author. This is one of my favorites.
printress More than 1 year ago
My first Nook book. I walked around the house with it for two days. Read in bed in the morning and at night. Thought-provoking. Infuriating. Heart-stopping. Without a doubt, I'll be recommending it to my book group.
Avidreader282 More than 1 year ago
This is a masterpiece. I have not read a book this exceptional in a very long time. I am always looking for that story that makes me say....I want more! This is that novel.. Read this, you will not be disappointed...
BookloverjJH More than 1 year ago
This book is well written and I could not put it down. The view of a family and their demons is phenomenal. Additionally, the story was riviting. A must read for anyone who enjoys well written modern fiction.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read several of Jennifer Haigh's book and they are always so well written. I could not put this book down. Set in Boston around an Irish American family who are very devoted to the Catholic Church. The characters in the story are so believable. There are many people who have this blind faith to the church. Your heart goes out to the priest who can't understand what is happening to him. The brother who is so self involved. The sister who becomes involved in the tragedy that is circling her brother. Finally, you have such anger towards the church and their discarding of the priest by agreeing to the settlement. The young mother who is corrupted by her boyfriend into making her son the victim. There is so much in this story that grads you and makes you think about so many things. Would be a great book club read. Highly recommend. Jennifer Haigh is a talented writed.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting topic at book group around the subject of the book, Catholic priest and child molestation, as well as family support, people's prejudices,etc
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I love this it draws u in so much it feels like u are in the bookget the book i loved it so much i so happy i picked the book
Lny11 More than 1 year ago
Characters were relatable and the story is interesting.