Faith: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...

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Faith: A Novel

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Overview

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

From Barnes & Noble

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.

Publishers Weekly
Haigh (Mrs. Kimble) explores the intersections of public scandal and personal tragedy in her superb fourth novel. Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family. Arthur Breen became a priest when such a career path was considered a logical, honorable choice for an intelligent young Catholic man. Sophisticated and worldly in many ways, utterly childlike in others, Arthur is unprepared to cope with secular life when he's accused of abusing a young boy and is subsequently asked to leave his parish. Arthur's younger half-sister, Sheila, in a quasi-omniscient style, narrates the complicated, devastating history that shaped Arthur's life, both personally and spiritually. Although this all-too-plausible story offers a damning commentary on the Church's flaws and its leaders' hubris, Haigh is concerned less with religious faith than with the faith Arthur's family has—and loses, and in some cases regains—in one another. At its broadest, this is a frank and timely story of familial and institutional heredity; at its most personal, the novel is a devastating portrait of a priest who discovers that he's also a man. (May)
Library Journal
The scandal regarding the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests continues on its ugly way, and Haigh (The Condition) doesn't make it any easier for us: she's written a novel that questions the guilt of a priest so charged. When older half-brother Art is accused of abusing a boy whose wayward mother he's tried to help, Sheila McGann returns to the suffocating Irish American home and community in Boston she had fled. Art has been shunned by the family, particularly brother Mike, who has several children and a cold, judgmental wife. To Sheila's horror, Mike condemns Art out of hand, even as he gets uncomfortably involved with the woman who has brought the suit against him. Beyond Art's denial, Sheila herself can't get him to articulate what really happened. VERDICT Initially, the story is told more blandly than one would expect from the fine Haigh, and the idea crawls uncomfortably around the reader's mind that she's soft-soaping the issue. By the end, though, the narrative is emotionally involving and ethically concise, reminding us that things are not always as they seem and that we must consider carefully how we judge others. Most fiction readers will want. [See Prepub Alert, 11/15/10.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
O magazine
“Luminous. . . . The novel has the magnetic, page-turning quality of a detective thriller, but the clues here lead not to objective proof but to insight into a family both vividly specific and astonishingly universal. . . . . Wise.”
Washington Post
“Both riveting and profound. . . . An incredibly suspenseful novel.”
New York Times
“Expertly wrought. . . . Ms. Haigh, a subtle, serious novelist who happens to have a flair for capturing troubled family dynamics, never allows FAITH to become predictable. . . . Gripping. . . . Substantial.”
Booklist (starred review)
“With an exquisite sense of drama and mystery, Haigh delivers a taut, well-crafted tale. . . . Indelibly rendered characters, suspenseful pacing, and fearless but sensitive handling of a controversial subject will make this a must-read for book discussion groups.”
More magazine
“A masterpiece of tension and tenderness.”
Self
“Haigh’s fourth novel draws you in. . . . You’ll be hypnotized until you know where it stops.”
Wall Street Journal
“FAITH is so emotionally rich, and its story so deftly delivered, that we’re absorbed.”
Library Journal
Haigh's The Condition was an especially clear-eyed and sensitive portrait of the alienation wrought by a serious medical issue. So I have high hopes for her handling of the controversy surrounding child abuse by Catholic priests. Estranged from her Irish American family, Sheila McGann nevertheless returns home to Boston when her brother Art, a popular priest, is caught up in the scandal. She wants to defend him, but her oblivious mother, accusatory brother, and Art himself, who remains silent, all conspire against her. A real thought-provoker for book clubs; with a 150,000-copy first printing and an eight-city tour.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062079367
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/10/2011
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 53,306
  • File size: 978 KB

Meet the Author

Jennifer Haigh

Jennifer Haigh is the author of the short story collection News From Heaven and four critically acclaimed novels:  Faith, The Condition, Baker Towers and Mrs. Kimble. Her books have won both the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for work by a New England writer. Her short fiction has been published widely, in The Atlantic, Granta, The Best American Short Stories 2012, and many other publications. She lives in the Boston area. 

Biography

The daughter of a librarian and a high school English teacher, Jennifer Haigh was raised with her older brother in the coal-mining town of Barnesboro, Pennsylvania. Although she began writing as a student at Dickinson College, her undergraduate degree was in French. After college, she moved to France on a Fulbright Scholarship, returning to the U.S. in 1991.

Haigh spent most of the decade working in publishing, first for Rodale Press in Pennsylvania, then for Self magazine in New York City. It was not until her 30th birthday that she was bitten by the writing bug. She moved to Baltimore (where it was cheaper to live), supported herself as a yoga instructor, and began to publish short stories in various literary magazines. She was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop and enrolled in their two-year M.F.A. program. While she was at Iowa, she completed the manuscript for her first novel, Mrs. Kimble. She also caught the attention of a literary agent scouting the grad school for new talent and was signed to a two-book contract. Haigh was astonished at how quickly everything came together.

Mrs. Kimble became a surprise bestseller when it was published in 2003. Readers and critics alike were bowled over by this accomplished portrait of a "serial marrier" and the three wives whose lives he ruins. The Washington Post raved, "It's a clever premise, backed up by three remarkably well-limned Mrs. Kimbles, each of whom comes tantalizingly alive thanks to the author's considerable gift for conjuring up a character with the tiniest of details." The novel went on to win the PEN/Hemingway Award for Outstanding First Fiction.

Skeptics who wondered if Haigh's success had been mere beginner's luck were set straight when Baker Towers appeared in 2005. A multigenerational saga set in a Pennsylvania coal-mining community in the years following WWII, the novel netted Haigh the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author. (Haigh lives in Massachusetts.) The New York Times called it "captivating," and Kirkus Reviews described it as "[a]lmost mythic in its ambition, somewhere between Oates and Updike country, and thoroughly satisfying." High praise indeed for a sophomore effort.

In fact, Haigh continues to produce dazzling literary fiction in both its short and long forms, much of it centered on the interwoven lives of families. When asked why she returns so often to this theme, she answers, " In fact, every story is a family story: we all come from somewhere, and it's impossible to write well-developed characters without giving a great deal of thought to their childhood environments, their early experiences, and whose genetic material they're carrying around."

Good To Know

In our interview with Haigh, she shared some fun facts about herself:

"All my life I've fantasized about being invisible. I love the idea of watching people when they don't know they're being observed. Novelists get to do that all the time!"

"When I was a child, I told my mother I wanted to grow up to be a genie, a gas station attendant, or a writer. I hope I made the right choice."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 16, 1968
    2. Place of Birth:
      Barnesboro, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., Dickinson College, 1990; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 2002

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 149 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(63)

4 Star

(45)

3 Star

(28)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 152 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2011

    Couldn't put it down!!

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The best book I've read this year- an emotional family journey

    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.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2011

    Must read!!

    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!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book. Highly recommended.

    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.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    Anonymous

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Book Based on Current Events

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    another good book by Jennifer Haigh

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    Loved It

    When I first started the book I didn't think I was going to like it but as I got into it I could barely put it down. It opens your eyes into the everday lives of people from many different walks of life. It also opens your eyes to the controversy within the Catholic Church about priests and the accusations that have come out. It shows how even in something as grave as ruining peoples lives, some people will stoop as low as possible for money. In the same realm, others will do anything to protect the innocent. This is not the whole jist of the book but it does play a big part in it. I think it is a good read and I would read other books by this author in the anticipation that they would be as good as FAITH!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    You will get angry no matter what your opinion is

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    I've read and loved several other books by this author. This is one of my favorites.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2011

    OUTSTANDING! AN EXTRAORDINARY READ

    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...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Best book I have read this year!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Couldn't put this book down. Loved it. Hated it to end.

    Best book I've read in a long time. Couldn't put it down. I lived in the area at the time and was mesmerized by the whole book. Nothing I have read on this subject came close to the real problem with the church. Called all my friends to get this book. Well written. I think this book is for everyone. I just downloaded Mrs. Kimbal and can't wait to get started.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    Made for interesting discussion at book group

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2013

    Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    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

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  • Posted October 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    3 stars

    Characters were relatable and the story is interesting.

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  • Posted July 1, 2013

    Started out a little slow, but once it took off, I could not put

    Started out a little slow, but once it took off, I could not put it down. One of the best books that I have read this year. I also recommend Jennifer Haighs other book Mrs. Kimble.

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  • Posted June 9, 2013

    A Page Turner

    A compelling story about the highly-charged contemporary issue of priest pedophiles, this novel helps the reader understand that there is another side to be considered. Jennifer Haigh is a master story teller; her characters are well-drawn and believable, the action is fast paced, and she is well-acquainted with Catholic practices. Similar to the play "Doubt," this novel helps the reader better understand the complexity of the issue and the intricacies of arriving at justice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    LLP

    Exciting! Dramatic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Good read

    I have read all of jennifer haigh's books i waited so long to read this one since i didn't think the subject matter would appeal to me i was wrong i live her writing style

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