Alice Hoffman always manages to instill some magic into her narrative, and a little appears in Faithful, but more believable than some of her other stories like Practical Magic or Nightbird – yet just as captivating.
Hoffman weaves the story around a mother-daughter relationship after a devastating car accident. Seventeen year old Shelby Richmond was driving when the car crashed; she survived but her best friend, Helene, became a vegetable and the town saint. As Helene lies comatose in her parents’ living room, amazing miracles seem to happen to some who make the pilgrimage to her bedside – scars disappear, diseases are cured, roses bloom in February on the anniversaries of the crash. Shelby, on the other hand, shaves her head, cuts her self, becomes a drug addict, and hides in her parents’ basement – in shame and guilt at having survived. The reader follows her journey to redemption as Hoffman takes Shelby from antisocial misery to working in a pet store and eventually to veterinary school.
Along the way, Shelby has help growing up and realizing how to live her second chance at life. Mysterious postcards appear intermittently in the story, and solving the mystery of the sender becomes a catalyst to reading on. When the “angel” is revealed, the story satisfyingly provides closure in a number of ways – to tell too much would spoil the reading.
Despite her rocky relationship with her mother and her subsequent connections with men, it’s the dogs in Shelby’s life who are the true saviors. She rescues abused homeless dogs, taking them to live with her in her three hundred foot studio apartment. Their personalties reflect Shelby’s needs – from the French bull dog, who always leads the way, to the one-eyed small dog who needs carrying, and the gentle guardian, the white Great Pyrenees. Eventually, her mother’s toy poodle becomes part of the brood. Dog lovers will readily identify with the value of Shelby’s canine friends.
Alice Hoffman’s stories always catch me unaware – before I know it I am deep in the story and cannot let go. Although the story begins on a depressing note, Hoffman quickly escalates to her real message, and the dogs in this story were an added bonus.
Reviews of Other Alice Hoffman Books: