Instaread Summary, Analysis & Review of Alice Hoffman's Faithful
Four out of five stars
According to this summary, the plot of the novel can be summed up by the sentence, “Woman suffers major trauma as a teen, her life continues to be a series of serious problems with the possibility of happiness at the end.”
Shelby Richmond is the main character and the story opens with an auto accident involving her and her friend Helene Boyd before they are out of high school. While Shelby suffers serious injuries, Helene is left in a permanently comatose state. Blaming herself for the accident, Shelby goes through life in a state of depression, using drugs and unable to establish any type of normal relationship, including friendship. It is mentioned that Helene did not buckle her seat belt, but that oversight does nothing to lessen Shelby’s guilt.
The plot summary is a sequential statement of Shelby’s problems in life, from having an affair with a married man, to issues with her parents that include the death of her mother due to cancer and being repeatedly raped while she is recovering from the auto accident. There is also the obligatory suicide attempt. Reading the summary, the reader concludes that either Shelby lives a joyless life or the author of the summary choses to ignore any positive events in her life.
There is a bit of semi-mysticism mentioned in the summary, packed into two distinct aspects. The first is that Shelby was pulled from the wrecked car by a mystery entity and has only a vague recollection of that event. In her mind it may have been an angel that did so, but it was a man. Later, she receives a series of hand-created, anonymous, simple notes that encourage her to recover and do better. The second is that for reasons that are not explained, the unconscious Helene is considered to have the ability to perform miracles such as healing the sick. One wonders why this distractor was put in the book with all the severe problems Shelby must cope with.
The first line of the analysis of the Shelby character is an excellent summary of her situation.
“Shelby’s short list of interests includes dogs, Chinese food, and pathological self-loathing.”
Although her situation improves a bit as the story progresses, it is hard to find anything uplifting in the book. At least until the end. However, as the author of summary states in the last paragraph:
“Finally, the last leg of the story suffers from the sense of closure Hoffman forces as she aggressively ties up loose ends in Shelby’s troubled relationships with Harper, Ben, her father, and Helene.”
Therefore, the possibility of a happy ending for Shelby comes across as a forced implausibility.
In conclusion, from this summary it is clear that there is little joy in the novel and what little there is gives the appearance of being forced. It is the kind of book that will make people think that there are people with problems worse than their own. Which is not the best way to feel better.