Book Club: Faithful

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Author: Alice Hoffman
ISBN: 9781925030891
RRP: $29.99

Faithful is a completely character driven novel that draws you in even though the pace is quite slow and a relatively short page count covers quite a large number of years.


Shelby Richmond was a bright young girl with the future in her hands and the world at her feet, until the night an accident left her best friend in a coma and Shelby suffering survivor guilt.

Faithful is Shelby’s story but we still get small insights into what is happening with her best friend Helene. The accident was a tragedy and one that couldn’t be avoided, it wasn’t a case of distraction or drinking, it was simply a tragic accident caused by winter road conditions. It leaves Shelby devastated and in a limbo of her own making; Helene can’t move on and go forward because of her injuries and so neither can Shelby.

Shelby was always a good student and one of the good girls, she didn’t get into any of the things that many 17 year olds do, until after the accident when the shell that used to be Shelby starts to smoke weed and the only person she can actually speak to is her dealer.

In the aftermath of the accident there is another host of traumatic experiences that Shelby suffers and has to come to terms with, it sees her distance herself from the world far enough that she doesn’t have to engage but not so far that she needs clinical help.

Eventually she seeks a fresh start in New York City, a dream she always had. She is running from the home town memories but not quite ready to stand up and reach for her future.

faithful

Shelby is such a tortured soul and it is her sense of self and self worth that has taken the biggest hit but it is that which sees her trying to save other lost souls, usually canine. Shelby finds herself collecting animals that need saving.

At a time when Shelby finds it difficult to believe in anything she starts to receive postcards from an unknown source that show her that someone sees her, this guardian angel gives her something to hang onto when she seems lost in the dark.

Almost without even noticing it herself Shelby comes back from the brink, she finds a job, she finds a passion, she finds a friend and she flexes the caring empath that has been lost inside her. Even though she’s still fighting to remain on the outside and not get attached she finds herself in a circle of souls that all depend on one another.

At times I found the story to be very slow going but at all times I was invested in Shelby and where she was heading. My heart broke for her that she suffered such guilt and the effect it had on all of her relationships. She turned so far inside of herself that she couldn’t see what was going on around her, how much she was loved and the hurt her distance was causing.

Faithful is a beautiful story of the hard fought path to the future for someone who was once so lost. This was a story that will stay with you.

Faithful is available in November from Simon & Schuster, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Faithful so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I will be interested to see what our readers think.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: Faithful

  1. Faithful by Alice Hoffman is a poignant story that is told with incredible honesty, raw emotion and a lot of heart. It is a harrowing story about how one person deals with the aftermath of a shocking accident, and the loss, guilt and pain of being a survivor. While this could easily have become a sombre and depressing tale, instead this is a warm and uplifting book, which I found completely mesmerizing.

    It is beautifully written and shows great insight into human behavior and the people who remain faithful to us when we hit rock bottom. From teenage angst and acts of rebellion, to survivor guilt and ways of grieving, the author seems to understand and present it all with wisdom and perception.

    I was immediately drawn to the main character Shelby and her sad struggle with the guilt of having survived the horrific car accident that has left her best friend Helene in a coma. Shelby’s remorse is so great that she has withdrawn into her own kind of ’emotional coma’, feeling unworthy and unwilling to live. Initially, she shuts everyone out, not allowing anyone to get too close, shaving her head to de-humanise herself and taking drugs to numb her pain. But Shelby is a real survivor and with help, particularly from her steadfast mum, her friend Ben and her mysterious ‘guardian angel’, Shelby gradually starts to emerge from the darkness to find her way. A very moving story from a very talented writer. I was completely engrossed until the very last page. Highly recommended.

  2. This is certainly a novel that will be with me for sometime.
    We follow Shelby through her tale of Survivors guilt. The start of her journey is heartbreaking, beginning with a nervous breakdown. We follow her journey and bit by bit we see her heal. I liked how it sort of just happened without her realising it.
    Her relationships with the other characters is at times quite funny and they all play their part in her recovery.
    Shelby is such a likeable character even though she doesn’t think so. I was instantly drawn to her. She’s incredibly strong yet gentle.
    I read this book in 2 days and loved every chapter.
    I plan to hunt down more of Alice Hoffmans novels.
    Thanks again Beauty & Lace for a great bookclub xx

  3. This brilliantly written novel is definitely a memorable, heartstopping, spellbinding novel of friendships, family, hardships and life and of course love.

    The story entwines around the character of mainly Shelby and her friend Helene. A horrible tragedy happens that would change Shelby’s life and that of Helenes.

    Shelby’s character will have dark moments but deep down she is a fighter that just needs to believe in herself. Along her journey of life throughout the novel, she will make beautiful friendships. She also has an angel watching over her since the accident and this is where you want to read on to find, who is the mystery angel.

    Shelby radiates her personality through the pages with her honest thoughts of life. Some make you laugh but there are others that make you weep for Shelby and Helene.
    It’s easy to love so many characters in this book. Shelby’s delightful, loving mum and the friendship she strikes up with Maravelle and her kids.

    For Shelby facing something that has happened in the past, can be so very daunting but the author Alice Hoffman shows that you do need to return to the past, so you can face what is in front of you in the future. This novel for me was a rollercoaster of emotions that left me with a fulfilling great read.

    I finished this book with tears and a sigh and a few tissues along the way. I know when I have read a great book because the characters become so real while reading, that they DO stay with me for a while once I finish the novel.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Simon & Schuster for another wonderful author to keep note of. I haven’t read any of her other books.

  4. This book is far from light-hearted, and I’d consider it to be more of a YA novel than Women’s Fiction, and I thought it was a nice book.
    Helene Boyd is a teenage student, along with her best friend, Shelby Richmond, when one night they are involved in a car accident.
    Helene ends up in a coma, and whilst Shelby isn’t hurt physically, she suffers anxiety and PTSD as a result of the accident. She blames herself, as she was driving the car when the accident occurred. I won’t give too much away, but she is a broken person and I felt for her. Shelby initially is a vulnerable young woman with no self-esteem, but in time, she builds herself back up into the person she had dreams and hopes for before the accident.
    This story deals with love, heartbreak, and a lot of emotion. It is quite sad in some parts, but by the end of the story, Shelby has a lot more going for her, and I was glad to see the journey of her transformation.
    The book is worth reading if you like stories that aren’t overly complicated and packed full of emotion.

  5. Thank you BeautyandLace and Simon & Schuster for this book trial.

    Firstly, get ready to go on a emotional trip, with a tissue box in hand!

    The story is easy to read and written clearly and there are some sentences which made me laugh, cry and have hope.

    There has been a car accident and there are 2 survivors, but what has happened to them is the storyline. The book focuses on one of the survivors, who has her own ordeal and trauma to deal with, namely, feeling guilty for surviving the crash and what she experiences in survivor’s guilt.

    It is also a story about what happens in the life of the survivor, who is a young woman named Shelby. This character reminds me of the sporty cool heroine from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Shelby is strong, but vulnerable, she is rude, but cries and has a heart. She can also be a hero to many she meets, including 2 legged and 4 legged friends. She has spunk, and is a cool chick!

    Reading this book made me think of my own life, and my own loves and losses, especially in relationships with my parents and my friends.

    The story is easy to follow and I wanted to know more, and what was going to happen next. There is a touch of some graphic violence that the heroine Shelby goes thru, which reminds us of things that can happen in certain places. It is mentioned in the book, and I guess that also forms who Shelby is and becomes.

    I felt sad but hopeful when reading this book. I also wanted a hero and a friend like Shelby. She does what she wants, even though she may be scared or apprehensive. This book made me smile and cry, because some of the things that Shelby goes thru, we may have also experienced in life and that’s where the author excels to touch the reader’s heart and soul.

    This is a beautifully written book with vivid descriptions and definitely makes me want to read more books by Alice Hoffman. Her writing style is contemporary and easy to understand. This book would suit any reader, male or female, any age, who wants to travel along on a few years of development and change in the life of a young woman, who has experienced tragedy, and journeys with the pain and sorrow of the accident.

    Does she recover, physically, and mentally? Is it ever possible to heal from such a tremendous event?

    Can an angel come and find some hope and happiness in us, when we have given up on ourselves. Is there any hope for those who have given up, yet there are others who still love us, unconditionally and with all our faults. This subtle message of persevering, even in extreme sorrow and sadness is the message that I got out of this book, which makes this book a wonderful and therapeutic read in a very good healing way 🙂

    Thank you, highly recommended.

  6. Thankyou Beauty and Lace and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to review such a great book.

    ‘Faithful’ by Alice Hoffman was a book tinged with sadness but some bright spots too.
    Very easy to read and absorbing it relates to the story of Shelby and the feelings of guilt she carries.
    Shelby and her best friend Helene high school seniors are involved in an accident where Shelby was the driver. The accident leaves Helene unable to communicate or move and confined to her home bedroom.
    Shelby is unable to forgive herself and subsequently suffers a breakdown. She is unable to forgive herself, blames herself and finds it impossible to return to the life she had, making things difficult for her mother. She strikes up a friendship with Ben, (a boy from her school who she wouldn’t normally have had anything to do with) and eventually moves with him to New York City. She, after some time gains employment in a pet shop.
    Still carrying guilt she begins caring for animals, rescuing several dogs, and through her job becomes friendly with a solo mother Marvelle and her children.
    All the time following the accident every so often she receives postcards with just one or two words on them. This seems to help her as she focuses on these small messages. She eventually comes to accept and forgive herself but not without sadness.
    I don’t know how I had never read Alice Hoffman before but I certainly know I’ll be reading her books again!

  7. Thank you to Beauty and Lace for the offer to review Faithful by Alice Hoffman,

    I am a first time reader of Alice and can say it won’t be the last novel of hers I will read.
    Alice has a written a brilliant book and very thought provoking novel.

    Helene Boyd is a teenage student and with her best friend Shelby Richmond they are involved in a car accident, which changes their lives forever.

    Helene ends up in a coma and although her best friend Shelby survives her life is altered dramatically.

    How Shelby evolves due to the accident is an amazing journey. It is quite a sad read in some parts and other parts made me laugh.

    It is a thought provoking novel and I would recommend it.

  8. I don’t have a long review for ‘Faithful’. I really loved it, but don’t have the words to describe it. It reminded me how some people are just good people no matter what they look like or how they feel and that if you are one of those good people, you will keep doing good things even if you don’t realise you are. I really felt for Shelby punishing herself like she did, but I can understand where she was coming from. I loved that her guardian angel was there to keep encouraging her and that she always listened and I loved that Shelby was able to forgive and love again.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Simon & Schuster for another wonderful book to review >:o)

  9. Faithful by Alice Hoffman is a beautifully written story. I feel like I’ve been on a journey – an emotional, harrowing, explorative journey – filled with lows, oh some very very deep lows, but with glimpses of highs starting to trickle through like sunlight through the clouds.

    The story follows Shelby, who is teenager involved in a car accident with her best friend Helene. Shelby survives, but Helene is in a coma and is placed in her bedroom where people come to visit because they believe she performs miracles. Shelby spirals into the darkest of places, she blames herself for the crash, is put into a psychiatric hospital, shaves her head, and then spends 2 years in the basement of her house hardly speaking a word. Anonymous postcards are delivered to her, with a few simple words which speak to Shelby and she begins to slowly move on with life, but she still endures the guilt and sorrow every single moment of her day.

    When I first started reading the starting chapters I really didn’t think I would like this book at all. It was so dark and gloomy (but this was how Shelby was dealing with the accident) I just had a depressed feeling of going back and reading more. But I persevered and in an odd way I really liked it, and how Shelby grew and started to come alive. By no means is it all happy, running on a rainbow joy after she realises she must start to live, but the darkness begins to fade little by little.

    I really loved Maravelle and her family, I thought that this story was quite special and allowed Shelby to soften. I loved that Shelby had a fondness for dogs and would stop at nothing to save them (there were a few tears from me in that storyline). The relationship with her Mum towards the end also had me reaching for tissues. I think coming away from this book, there are a lot of messages that Alice Hoffman had intertwined in each story/relationship with Shelby, and I couldn’t help but notice once I finished reading I felt like I had been enlightened by wise words, and I should live and breathe every moment and savour things I take for granted.

    Thanks again to Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Faithful by Alice Hoffman.

  10. On the surface, “Faithful” is a novel about surviving grief. More deeply, it’s a novel about connections – made, lost, maintained, renewed. It’s optimistic and hopeful, although it doesn’t flinch from looking depression and sadness in the eye.

    Shelby survives, almost physically unscathed, a car accident that puts her best friend in an irreversible coma. Emotionally devastated, she falls into a spiral of depression and destructive, self-absorbed behaviour. The novel follows her into that spiral, and through the slow – and almost accidental – rediscovery of herself in the years that follow.

    I really loved this novel. There aren’t any flashy, super dramatic moments – just the accumulation of unimportant and important moments that make up a life. Hoffman is good at quietly illuminating emotions though, and I found the novel moving and realistic. I particularly enjoyed the pattern of Shelby’s relationships. Hoffman deftly shows how relationships can grow, almost by accident, and yet still be so vital. I appreciated the way Shelby grew to understand her parents more as she aged.

    This is a very human novel, centred on a character readers will empathise with (and probably recognise in themselves to some degree). Grief is a central theme, but so too are the decisions we make about life – whether to settle, what to do when “settling” doesn’t seem to be enough anymore, what to do when our strengths show through despite ourselves. How do we live with poor or wrong decisions, how do we continue anyway? There’s not a lot of moralising or preaching here, just a lot of understanding.

    “Faithful” is a thoughtful and loving novel, one that may help you reflect on your life or understand others better. It’s also an enjoyable novel to read. Highly recommended; this was just about flawless.

  11. Faithful by Alice Hoffman is a story filled with sadness and overwhelming grief, which begins to lighten as the story progresses.

    17 year old Shelby is the driver of a car which in involved in a major accident, leaving her passenger, best friend Helene, in a coma. The reader can feel the guilt that Shelby experiences almost as a leaden weight in the book. She is just a kid, and what a terrible burden to suffer from. Shelby’s Mum tries desperately to get through the shell that builds around her daughter, but it seems Shelby has tried to turn off all her feelings by shedding her former Good Girl self, and sliding into a path of drugs, depression and despair.

    The reader follows Shelby as she battles with her heartbreak in this powerful story about finding oneself after a horrible event. It is a very realistic telling of a life turn inside out – not just Shelby’s, but also her family, Helene and her family, and their school friends and the whole small town community.

    A gut wrenching, tearful start to a slow recovery for Shelby.

    This book crushed my heart and made me weep. I read it in one sitting – I could not stop until I knew that Shelby would be ok. For in one split second of being in control of a car, any one of us could be in Shelby’s situation. Too real to go to sleep after turning the last page.

  12. Thank you for selecting me to read Faithful by Alice Hoffman
    The main character Shelby Richmond has had a major tragedy in her life which she caused
    Her best friend is left in a coma while Shelby walks away from the accident revelerty unharmed
    I fell in love with Shelby a young 17 year old shouldering so much guilt
    Shelby does go off the rails doing drugs and has such a dark attitude towards life
    Into the book you will see Shelby turn her life around and become a beautiful caring young woman ( she always was)
    She still has her dark days and sad moments but as she makes her way through life there are lots of happy times for Shelby
    What happened to Shelby in regards to the accident could happen to anyone of us or someone we know
    Readers will cry reading this book ( I did ) but I was so happy that it all turned out well for Shelby

  13. A truly memorable book, detailing how one person moves from a normal life to one that changes dramatically due to an accident. The term survivor guilt is threaded through this novel and how one girl who seemed to have it all…. Loses herself and worth trying to deal with this absolute tragedy. A book that is raw and deals head on with the hard topics of depression drugs and recovery. I read this book with the intention of understanding something a friend is dealing with and I feel that it gives me some insight into how things disintegrate to a point that your usual path is seemingly initially lost … The hard road to recovery is not lightly taken or travelled.

    A must read that offers an insight into a hard to imagine life…with a positive message that life is not always over no matter what has happened.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read this book….. It will remain in my mind for a long time to come…..

  14. Omg what a book !! To say I enjoyed this immensely would be an understatement. As soon as I started reading this I couldn’t put it down , I needed to know how Shelby would get through all the guilt that she had and how she could get on with her own life . Yes I cried in parts ( so not like me ) . Would I recommend ? Yes for sure AAA+ . I’m going to now pass this on to my mum to read … while I search for more books by this author to read .

  15. Thank you for giving me the chance this novel!

    It is definitely worth the read and a very emotional and thought provoking read
    I could not put it down. The mood lightens as the story continues and is very well written. I would recommend this book and as a first time reader of Alice I would definitely read any future work she would happen to you publish. Thumbs up, definitely!

  16. Faithful is the first book I have read by Alice Hoffman and it was an enjoyable read though perhaps a little different to I was expecting.

    The story only follows Shelby, but is written almost from a third person perspective with the addition of personal memories which makes it an interesting style which seemed a little different to other books I have read. There are only 15 chapters so they are quite lengthy but they are broken up into sections so there are smaller readable chunks.

    The start of the book is rather depressing as we learn about Shelby’s life since the tragic accident that took away the future of her best friend and it really doesn’t feel like the mood is ever going to improve. Shelby struggles with mental illness as she blames herself and she wants to punish herself for the accident. Shelby is strong though and slowly but surely starts to improve, and the mood of the story lifts gradually. We watch Shelby’s life take shape over many years through mostly ordinary day to day life type material, and we also learn more with snippets from her past. The ending is quite satisfying as it gives the sense that Shelby has finally found peace with herself and is looking forward instead of only back.

    While there are a few prominent people in Shelby’s life that we meet and get to know, Shelby also has a ‘guardian angel’ who is watching over her since the accident. This person helps her learn about herself, and she was able to build a relationship with them towards the end. The guardian angel is an important takeaway message from this book, demonstrating how you can do something seemly small for another person yet to them it can really mean the world, and it can determine whether they make or break. This is a powerful message that this book has reinforced in my mind.

  17. “Faithful” is not your average book. It’s a journey of one girl’s battle with her own demons.

    Shelby is a complex character. You can’t help but love her self-hatred and vulnerability. After a serious car accident at age 17 in which her best friend Helene was left permanently comatose,

    Shelby enters a downward spiral of depression, anxiety and never ending guilt. She spends years in her parent’s basement, not wanting to participate in the world of the living and waiting for postcards from her ‘angel’, someone who sends her messages of hope in her dark days.

    After forming a bond with her school mate-come drug dealer Ben Mink, she ends up moving to New York city with him and despite herself, finds a good job at a pet shop, befriends a sassy single mother Maravelle and adopts an array of wayward dogs.

    Shelby has many ups and downs and is self sabotaging at times, but deep down she is a loveable, deeply feeling individual you can connect with. I kept wanting her to succeed, to get the guy, land the job, be the best friend. That’s why I couldn’t put ‘Faithful’ down. I just wanted to see if Shelby got her happy ever after….of course I can’t tell you that, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

  18. What a wonderful story! To be quite honest I was worried early on that this was going to be a sad, dark tale all the way to the end but thankfully it was not.
    Shelby had an accident with a friend years earlier and while they both survived, Helene suffered horrific injuries and would never recover, and Shelby was to live with the guilt of being ok. Her world spiralled into a dark place and that was where she wanted to be.
    Over time things slowly get better for Shelby and in part that was due to a guardian angel and his secret messages.
    She is able to move on with her life and begin to believe a little in herself again thanks to her friends, her mother and James.
    It was lovely to read Shelby’s tale and be immersed in her world.
    Thank you for the chance to read this, definitely enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it

  19. Faithful is a story that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster as you follow Shelby’s journey to get over her survivors guilt and move on with her life. It really is a story that is hard hitting and stirs up emotions and thoughts about how you would deal in a similar situation. I really enjoyed reading this novel as it is easy to read but has an interesting story. I look forward to reading more books by Alice Hoffman and thanks for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

  20. What an unforgettable story. From the first page I was hooked and the character development was amazing.

    This book however is not one to take lightly. The bond formed with the main character ensures that you travel with her through her struggles and frustrations. How could she have survived whilst her best friend lies comatosed, how do you enjoy life when guilt is a constant companion. This roller coaster of emotions saw me cringing, crying, groaning with frustration only to find that sliver of light in the form of a guardian angel who brings Shelby back.

    This well written book puts you squarely in Shelby’s position forcing you to ask yourself, what would I do if this was me? A great book but be prepared to ask yourself the tough questions!

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