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336 pages; Harper
In her luminous new new novel, Faith (Harper), author Jennifer Haigh has much more on her mind than religious belief; faith in your God may well matter, but so does faith in those you love and in yourself. With the sexual abuse scandal that rocked Boston's Catholic archdiocese in 2002 as the backdrop, narrator Sheila McGann recounts a chain of events that shattered her older half-brother Art's life as a priest when he was accused of fondling a young boy. "And the evidence either way—of his guilt or innocence—was very slim," Sheila says. 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—a family full of secrets, resentments, and divided loyalties. Sheila, another brother, and their mother react to Art's situation according to their own needs for self-justification, while Art refuses to fight the charge, not because he abused the child but because "in his own eyes he was not blameless. He was simply guilty of a different crime." Almost everybody in this wise novel has trespassed in one way or another—and everyone needs forgiveness. As Sheila reminds us: "Faith is a decision. In its most basic form, it is a choice." And every choice, we learn, has its consequence.
— Liza Nelson