Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Faith: A Novel, by Jennifer Haigh

Book Discussion Date and Time: Monday, December 16, 2013,  at 1:00 PM

Discussion Leader: Ellen Getreu

When her older brother Art--the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish--finds himself at the center of  scandal, Sheila McGann, estranged from her family for years, returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation....A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman's quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief.

Request a copy of this book through ALISCat



Download the Readers' Packet prepared by our staff

From the NovelistPlus database
/* Starred Review */ Father Arthur Breen has devoted his entire career as a priest in Boston’s South Shore community to a life of quiet but determined faith, enthusiastically serving his parishioners while unobtrusively placating his superiors in the Catholic hierarchy. Only marginally involved with his own family—devout mother, alcoholic stepfather, go-getter half-brother, and contemplative half-sister—Breen takes an instant shine to eight-year-old Aidan, the emotionally fragile son of the rectory’s housekeeper, and makes tentative arrangements to help Aidan’s newly clean-and-sober mother, Kath, start a new life. So when a sex abuse scandal rocks the Boston archdiocese, everyone is shocked, though no one is exactly surprised, to learn that Kath has accused Father Breen of harming Aidan. Looking back on the tragedy, Breen’s sister Sheila chronicles the events leading up to and beyond the incident, revealing a family shattered by profound secrets. With an exquisite sense of drama and mystery, Haigh delivers a taut, well-crafted tale that potently but subtly explores myriad gray areas within essential issues of truth and trust, punishment and absolution. Indelibly rendered characters, suspenseful pacing, and fearless but sensitive handling of a controversial subject will make this a must-read for book discussion groups. -- Haggas, Carol (Reviewed 04-01-2011) (Booklist, vol 107, number 15, p24)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ Haigh (Mrs. Kimble) explores the intersections of public scandal and personal tragedy in her superb fourth novel. Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family. Arthur Breen became a priest when such a career path was considered a logical, honorable choice for an intelligent young Catholic man. Sophisticated and worldly in many ways, utterly childlike in others, Arthur is unprepared to cope with secular life when he's accused of abusing a young boy and is subsequently asked to leave his parish. Arthur's younger half-sister, Sheila, in a quasi-omniscient style, narrates the complicated, devastating history that shaped Arthur's life, both personally and spiritually. Although this all-too-plausible story offers a damning commentary on the Church's flaws and its leaders' hubris, Haigh is concerned less with religious faith than with the faith Arthur's family has—and loses, and in some cases regains—in one another. At its broadest, this is a frank and timely story of familial and institutional heredity; at its most personal, the novel is a devastating portrait of a priest who discovers that he's also a man. (May) --Staff (Reviewed February 21, 2011) (Publishers Weekly, vol 258, issue 08, p)
Library Journal:
The scandal regarding the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests continues on its ugly way, and Haigh (The Condition ) doesn't make it any easier for us: she's written a novel that questions the guilt of a priest so charged. When older half-brother Art is accused of abusing a boy whose wayward mother he's tried to help, Sheila McGann returns to the suffocating Irish American home and community in Boston she had fled. Art has been shunned by the family, particularly brother Mike, who has several children and a cold, judgmental wife. To Sheila's horror, Mike condemns Art out of hand, even as he gets uncomfortably involved with the woman who has brought the suit against him. Beyond Art's denial, Sheila herself can't get him to articulate what really happened. VERDICT Initially, the story is told more blandly than one would expect from the fine Haigh, and the idea crawls uncomfortably around the reader's mind that she's soft-soaping the issue. By the end, though, the narrative is emotionally involving and ethically concise, reminding us that things are not always as they seem and that we must consider carefully how we judge others. Most fiction readers will want. [See Prepub Alert, 11/15/10.]— Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal --Barbara Hoffert (Reviewed March 1, 2011) (Library Journal, vol 136, issue 4, p69)
/* Starred Review */ A non-sensationalized novel about an inherently sensational event—the abuse of an 8-year-old boy by a priest. Haigh hands over most of the narrative burden to Sheila McGann, half-sister of Art Breen, who for over 25 years has been a good man and a respected parish priest in the Boston area. Just before Easter, however, the diocese abruptly removes him from his duties and establishes him in an apartment until it completes an investigation into an allegation that he's abused Aidan, a boy he is obviously fond of and has become emotionally attached to. Aidan's mother is Kath, a drug- and man-addicted young woman whose credibility is problematic at best. (One logical suspicion is that Kevin, her egregiously addled boyfriend, might be putting her up to this accusation to secure easy money in light of recent scandals in the Church.) While Sheila has faith in Art's innocence, her other brother, Mike, is not so sure. Mike's situation is complicated by his marriage to Abby, a Lutheran who believes almost everything is wrong in the Catholic Church. Haigh moves seamlessly from Sheila's reminiscence of growing up Catholic in Boston (though she's since lost the faith) to a more neutral and objective third-person account of events that relentlessly unfold and seem to implicate Art. Haigh deals with complex moral issues in subtle ways, and her narrative is beautifully, sometimes achingly poignant.(Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2011)