I’m still reading Alice Hoffman’s books, even after all these years and it is not a difficult task to be a loyal fan because her writing is always pretty flawless. Of course not every book has been a favorite; there are some tales I have liked better than others, and there are still books that really hit the literary spot for me. Faithful is almost in that sweet spot. It a very good book, just not one I would put on her top shelf. It has a beautiful blue cover and it contains lots of blue imagery, but it seems to lead to nothing more than a very blue mood, or perhaps the ink tattoo artists use.
We begin with two high school beauties, one slightly prettier than the other, with all the confidence and arrogance their looks endow them with. These two are a powerful presence in their school. Almost everyone is either in love with them or envies them. Then life happens. One beauty ends up in a coma in her childhood bedroom with the rose wallpaper. That’s Helene Boyd. The other Shelby Richmond, stops her life to do penance for still being alive. She shaves her head, once adorned with long stylish hair. She wears black clothing. She cuts herself. She slits her wrists. She ends up in a Psych ward where she is raped routinely by an orderly until her mother finds out and takes her home. Helene, it is rumored, can make miracles happen. Shelby can barely survive from day to day.
Someone is looking over Shelby though. Postcards arrive for her in the mail with interesting drawings and messages perhaps from an angel or a savior, or maybe somehow from Helene. They bear cryptic messages such as, “Say something”, “Do something”, “Be someone”. Shelby keeps them in a box with a blue velvet lining. Who will save her? Will anyone save her? That I cannot tell.
This is not rocket science. It is not the great American novel. It doesn’t employ deep symbolism or leave you in a literary trance. Still it portrays the depths of grief a human soul can plumb and it shows that the way out is a function of time and positive social interactions until one day hope becomes stronger than grief and the two strike a bargain that allows life to offer some sweetness once again. Faithful is a story of our times and one that young adults would find very relevant indeed.