Thursday, January 26, 2012

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

This is the book I’ve been waiting for Mary Gordon or Alice McDermott to write. These women are leading writers of Irish-American fiction, but neither has taken on the subject of the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic church. Jennifer Haigh has done it instead, and done it well. I was a little unsure at the beginning, in the way that I always am unsure when starting a book steeped in a current news issue: Would it be exploitative? Would it trivialize the issue? Or wallow in it? The answer is none of the above. This is a really really good book about a sensitive topic.

Faith tells the story of Arthur Breen, a Catholic priest accused of the sexual abuse of a young boy in Boston in the early 2000s. The book isn’t so much about whether or not Arthur is guilty, but is more the story of Arthur’s youth, education, and life in the Catholic community in Boston, and about his siblings Sheila and Mike, who careen wildly among the various emotions and beliefs that are engendered by the charge against their brother. I don’t want to give away too much detail here because the question of Arthur’s guilt or innocence is still salient to the plot, but I will say that Haigh allows us too to experience the varying emotions. Is Arthur creepy? Sad? Totally innocent? A monster? A victim? All of these at once?

How tempting would it be, if you were writing this book, to try to draw conclusions about the causes of the church’s scandal? To make generalizations, or sweeping statements. People do that all the time about this issue. Haigh masterfully avoids those urges and instead has written a story about one man, about his family, and about the bad things that can happen in life. I loved it.

(Book 3, 2012)


Robby said...

I've wanted to read this book for ages, anything by Jennifer Haigh. I've got to get around to it, and soon.

Laurie C said...

This was an excellent audiobook from Harper Audio, narrated by Therese Plummer.

P.S. I just found your blog for the first time looking for reviews of One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead. I shall return!

Gayle said...

Glad you liked this one. I love Jennifer Haigh - just finished this one this week.

Post a Comment