Review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman ’73

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November 2, 2016

Review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman ’73

by Alia Danilo '18

The latest work by prolific novelist Alice Hoffman ’73 was published on November 1, 2016 by Simon & Schuster. Set on Long Island and New York City, Faithful follows the story of Shelby Richmond through her young adult life as she struggles to find herself after a traumatic car accident which left her best friend, Helene, in a coma. Despite everyone telling her that the accident was not her fault—she had been driving with Helene over icy roads—Shelby feels like she is to blame for Helene’s condition.

While Helene is loved, adored, and believed to perform miracles in her comatose state, Shelby isolates herself from everyone and tries to make herself the polar opposite of the pretty, popular straight-A student she’d been before the accident, someone whose idea of rebellion was staying out past her curfew. After her time in the hospital and then the psych ward, where she was sexually abused by an orderly, Shelby shaved her head, abandoned makeup and clothing of any color other than black and submitted herself to always wear the winter combat boots she had been wearing on the night of the accident.

Hoffman is able to show the intense inner struggle of someone dealing with a combination of PTSD and depression who, despite all outward appearances, wants people to care. She has an amazing ability to make you fall in love with characters through subtle moments and conversations that show who they are rather than listing their characteristics. However, there are many intimate scenes that pulled me in, but then ended abruptly. I felt myself wanting more of those intense scenes.

The first chapter of the book seems disconnected from the rest of the story, which I expected it to focus more on Shelby and Helene. But I loved where the story ended up going and watching Shelby learn, through people and quite a few stray dogs, how to care for others and, most important, herself. The book ended too perfectly and cleanly for my taste, but I can’t deny that I was truly sucked into the story. While I was reading, Shelby’s life became my own and I was reminded that, “What is behind you is gone, what is in front of you awaits.”

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