Alice Hoffman’s story of a tortured soul’s yellow brick road to self-forgiveness.
With so many bits of information, advice and copy writing exercises running through my head, I feel it’s about to explode.
It’s time to take a minute and do what makes me feel grounded and relaxed. I’m going to talk about books….
I just finished a wonderful Alice Hoffman book, Faithful.
“Faithful” is a beautifully tragic, soul searching character study with an uplifting, love-concurs-all ending. Buy here (I am an Amazon Affiliate).
It’s not the usual, magical filled story that I’m used to reading from her. Stories like Practical Magic, A Secret History of Witches, The Rules of Magic, Magic Lessons, and more….. but her enchanting voice still carries through.
Faithful is about Shelby Richmond, a girl growing up in Long Island with survivors remorse. After a car accident Shelby is left with only minor injuries while her best friend is permanently brain damaged. From the moment she finds the help to drag herself from her parent’s basement, Shelby struggles against the realization that the past can’t change and there is no escape from the present and future.
Even running away to New York, going through the motions with little to no enthusiasm for anything but Chinese food, books and dogs, Shelby is continually faced with the person she is supposed to be.
Kirkus Review described Faithful as “A novel full of people—flawed, scarred, scared—discovering how to punish themselves less and connect with others more.” and I couldn’t agree more. Shelby’s hardened outer shell is shattered by those who find their way in. It’s through these little cracks in her armor that her emotional capabilities in her relationships are revealed.
New York Times writer Helene Wecker negatively reviews Hoffman’s book stating:
“‘Does no one else see all this pain floating around Manhattan?’ Shelby wonders in one of her more solipsistic moments. What’s most vexing about Faithful is that you’re supposed to feel like a monster if you laugh. Hoffman builds Shelby out of trauma and not much else, and her observations suffer from a certain clichéd vagueness. Through Shelby, we learn that ‘feelings are best left concealed,’ that ‘she doesn’t even think it’s possible for her to smile’ and, most egregiously, that ‘it’s true, tragedy can bring you closer or drive you apart.’ Hoffman might be making a point about the banality of heartbreak, but it’s lost in the actual banality.”
But I think this very lack of personality and vagueness is exactly what Hoffman was going for.
Shelby is supposed to be this empty being, desperately trying to disappear in a world without the friend she knew in self-flagellating despair. The “banality” is how the character, Shelby, feels about her life.
Heck, even the animals have their own spunky personalities and sometimes even hurt souls. From Blinkie, the blind leader to the General, who becomes Shelby’s surrogate boyfriend for a time – no one character is left as an empty shell.
It is through fate that these animals and people come into Shelby’s life, and she can’t help but connect with them. It is with these “Scarecrows,” “Tinmen” and “Cowardly Lions” that Shelby wanders her “Yellow Brick” path, and comes to the realization that only she can release herself into the freedom of forgiveness.
Full of loving characters and painful realities, Shelby’s story grips the heart strings, and doesn’t let go, even after reaching the last page and closing the book.
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