Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Arthur Breen, known as Art by his family and either Father Breen or Father Art by his parish, was once a beloved Catholic priest in suburban Boston. But the allegation that he has molested a young boy tears from his congregation and fractures his family.

His younger sister, Sheila McGann, arrives from Philadelphia and sets out to redeem her disgraced brother (half-brother, her brother Mike is now quick to point out). There are those in the family who immediately presume Art is guilty, and those like Art’s mother and Sheila who do not. However, her quest causes her to doubt her brother and leads the discovery of more secrets this working-class Irish-Catholic family has tried desperately to bury.

This is the fourth book by Haigh I have read and most assuredly my favorite. Once again, Haigh’s characterizations are right on target and the subtle observations of family life play out perfectly. It was difficult to put this novel down; one of those books you think about when you’re forced to set it aside.

The Catholic sex abuse scandal rocked Boston in 2002 and continues to rock the world today. Using this as the basis for a novel could have given rise to a lot of melodrama, but I loved Haigh’s handling of this. The “did he or didn’t he?” aspect of the novel, surprisingly, was not what propelled me to keep reading.

Rather, spellbinding writing, strong characters, and care and delicacy towards a sensitive topic make this an exceptional read. Highly recommended.

Book Mentioned:

  • Haigh, Jennifer. Faith. New York: Harper, 2011. Print. 318 pgs. ISBN: 9780060755805. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Harper. Retrieved: July 28, 2011.

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