06 December 2011

Faith, by Jennifer Haigh (Audio Review)

Faith is often debated. An intangible subject, the weight is immeasurable yet uplifting, but can also be a crushing burden. In Jennifer Haigh's novel, the McGann family is at the very center of one of the most scandalous times in the Catholic community when Sheila's brother, a Catholic priest, is accused of the worst thing a priest, a man, can be accused of. Kath Conlon has accused Art of molesting her young son, Aidan.

In a torrential sequence of events, Art's sister Sheila and her brother Mike are brought together in the Boston suburbs of an Irish-Catholic family to deal with their tight-lipped mother and aging father, and simultaneously dealing with their own pasts and insecurities as they come to terms with the accusation. It devastates each in their own way, and of course, Art most of all. Relieved of his duties as a priest, he is relegated to a separate apartment, unable to wear his vestments and practice the Sacrament. Alone, and unsure of his next steps, any solace he may have found with his family is also troubled, and through Sheila, the one in the family with the least amount of faith, she tells the story bravely, assuredly, although with trepidation. It is with respect that each character's story is shared through Sheila's eyes.

In light of the terrible subject matter, it is beautifully told. Jennifer Haigh's writing is casual and heartfelt, relaying each event succinctly, in a quiet way that delivers the devastation suffered by two families. With the overlaying scandal of the Catholic community and its priests are two proud and tough Boston Irish Catholic families struggling to fight back and redeem each other, both in the public and with each other, but most importantly, for themselves. A moving and dedicated story, Jennifer Haigh's novel is a study of loyalty, truth, and ultimately, faith.

Therese Plummer is the narrator for this 10 hour, 7 minute unabridged audio, and she does an incredible job capturing the Boston accent, and creating distinction between each character. I think she does the most heartfelt and effective job as she voiced Kath Conlon, the mother of Aidan, the young boy. Kath is simultaneously mature and naive, and yet tormented by the poor choices she makes in her own life. Plummer's voice is the most pure, the most honest with this character, and it was tough to listen to at times.

An excellent audiobook and one that even the staunchest opposer of audio will find enthralling to listen to. Either way this story is experienced, whether through print or audio, Faith by Jennifer Haigh will easily generate debate and dialogue, and will be an excellent choice for a book club.

About the Author (from her website)
Jennifer Haigh is a novelist and short story writer. Her first book, Mrs. Kimble, won the 2004 PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. Her second, Baker Towers, was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2006 PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author. Both have been published in nine languages. Other fiction has been published in Granta, Ploughshares, Five Points, Good Housekeeping, and other places. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Jennifer Haigh is a graduate of Dickinson College and the Iowa Writer's Workshop. She now lives in the Boston area but doesn't get out much. She maintains a large, lively circle of imaginary friends.

Click here to visit the author on her website.
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About the Narrator (from her website)
Therese Plummer is an actor and award winning voice over artist living and working in New York City. Favorite roles to date include TV: Rose Nerrick, The Good Wife, Andy in Law and Order: SVU. Therese is an award winning narrator of audio books and records for Audible.com, Recorded Books, John Marshall Media and Duart.

Click here to visit the actor on her website.


  1. This was a beautiful review, and I am eager to read this book soon! I just got a copy from the very generous Anita, and think that it sounds wonderful. There seem to be so many topics for consideration and discussion in this one, and I am thinking about asking my book club if they would consider reading it with me. Very thoughtful analysis today, Natalie. I enjoyed it very much!

  2. Great review! I read it earlier this year and really liked it. Haigh is an amazing writer. I never thought about listening to it but it sounds like it was a very good audiobook.

  3. My book club will be voting on books for next year at our next meeting and this is the book I proposed.

  4. I've had this one on my radar for some time and hope to get around to it one of these days. I don't own a copy yet, but I also have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. :)

  5. I can't wait to read this.. I just joined the latest blog tour for it so I'm excited! I love books that provide debate.

  6. This looks like the perfect book club book! It sounds really interesting.

  7. An intriguing topic for a book. Have you read The Bishop's Man, which is about a similar thing? It's about a priest who is working to try to cover up a child abuse scandal in the Catholic church.

  8. Moving this to the top of my audible.com wish list!

  9. I would have to agree. This was one of my favorite books in 2011. I loved the audio and, one of these days, I plan to read my printed version.

    Outstanding review!


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