Since the night of the car accident that left her best friend Helene in a coma, Shelby Richmond doesn't believe she deserves to live. Though her physical injuries are minor, Shelby drifts through her days in a state of agonized, drug-addled limbo, paralyzed by the events of that night, feeling both unworthy and unable to start living a life beyond the accident. Alice Hoffman (The Marriage of Opposites) unfolds the slow, rich, heartbreaking story of how Shelby finds her way in Faithful, her 26th novel for adults.
Shelby hides out in her parents' basement, emerging occasionally to meet a high school acquaintance turned drug dealer. Ben, an amateur philosopher, becomes Shelby's boyfriend and her ticket out of their hometown; when the two move to Manhattan together, Shelby begins working at a pet store and, to her surprise, finds herself truly caring for the animals she tends. Visits from Shelby's stalwart mother, the no-nonsense friendship offered by Shelby's coworker Maravelle and her children, and postcards from a mysterious "angel" who witnessed Shelby's accident also help to tug her forward.
Back at home, there are rumors that Helene, lying still in her hospital bed, has acquired mystical healing powers. People travel from miles away to beg for Helene's help, but Shelby knows her friend can't offer the one thing she craves: absolution. Bittersweet and luminous, Hoffman's novel is a testament to the quiet power of small gestures and gradual redemption. Hoffman's characters may struggle to believe in themselves, but they find strength--and give it--in their refusal to give up on each other. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams