I have read all three of Jennifer Haigh’s novels. They are very good, different, edgy. But with this one, well, I think she has broken out. She has honed her craft and stepped up into the big leagues.
The story is told in the voice of a woman named Sheila McGann. Sheila has two brothers: Art and Mike. Art being the older brother, a Catholic priest living and practicing in Boston.
It’s springtime, 2002; Boston. The archdiocese is being strained past its limits. Innocent priests are being falsely accused of unbelievable atrocities against the very charges in their company. Art McGann, unfortunately, is one of these priests. He has been a highly esteemed priest all of his life. Now in his 50’s Art has settled into the priesthood for life.
Haigh pulls off this extremely complicated and exciting story with seamless prose and keen observation. She goes on to make this familiar topic oh-so-personal and unique.
The McGann family is headed by a devout Catholic mother who considers her son, Art, the priest, her favorite child. Her husband is now living his life in what appears to be a “trance-like” stupor in his old age. He literally drank himself into this state. Even though the man does not touch the drink anymore, his brain is pretty cooked. Mike, the other brother, has already convinced himself that his brother is guilty.
Haigh interjects complicated situations that give the reader pause, keep you guessing, and make you think.
How shaken would your faith be if your loved one was charged with a crime? Would you unflinchingly stand beside and behind them? Most people would probably say they would. But I don’t think any of us can say for sure until confronted personally. Let’s hope we never are.
I do remember this time in our history. I remember hearing about the accusations being tossed at the priests in Boston. l really had no conception of what was really going on. I seem to remember thinking that surely they were guilty. I’m sure I am not the only person who felt this way. After all, how could so many priests be put on the chopping block without facts. So, reading this book truly opened my eyes to this event in history.
Haigh’s deeply drawn characters deal with doubt and guilt, finding themselves second-guessing each thought.
This unputdownable path to find the truth, is told in the unflinching solo voice of Sheila McGann. Dealing with disgrace, wavering devotion and utter despair, Haigh gives us this exciting tale with all of its senses on fire.
FAITH by Jennifer Haigh is now available in a trade paperback form. I received my arc from Jennifer’s agent last year before it came out in Hard Cover.