Book Leaves Readers With Questions
These days perhaps few are surprised when they hear of a priest under suspicion of inappropriate behavior. Similar stories have made headlines for a couple of decades now.
In Jennifer Haigh’s new novel, “Faith,” not only do we get the unexpected, but we get a layered, complex and evocative tale with richly drawn characters as well.
Haigh’s character, Sheila McGann, tells us how her half-brother Art became one of the accused priests, and how that accusation destroys his life. The author’s brilliantly controlled structure prevents us from receiving all the facts at once so that we can never be quite sure of how things really went down.
Through most of the book we may be wondering, is Sheila’s recounting of what happened reliable? Is she forthcoming with all the information? Does she really know her brother?
After all, the attention Father Art lavishes on a lonely boy with an often negligent mother could reasonably appear suspect given the history of similar transgressions within the church.
We’re left wondering only until the moment Haigh decides to relieve us of that doubt in one stunning, illuminating scene, which arrives near the end of the novel.
This new revelation will alter perception of events that transpire before and after. Not all things are as they seem, and Haigh reminds us of this as she skillfully explores the meaning of faith and all of its nuances.
“Faith” is a remarkable novel, both for its strong rendering of place and the salt-of-the-earth people who inhabit that place, and also for its invitation for us to think beyond our assumptions, maybe even discard them altogether. It’s a novel that will not only deliver answers, but will also leave the reader with deep, profound questions.
Katrina Denza’s stories can be found in several literary journals and forthcoming from Gargoyle No. 57. She volunteers as a mentor for Dzanc’s Creative Writing Sessions and keeps a literary blog, www.katdenza.blogspot.com.
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