cover image Faithful


Alice Hoffman. Simon & Schuster, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9920-9

The sweet-natured latest novel from Hoffman (The Marriage of Opposites) ambles along pleasantly enough as it follows the recovery from grief of young Shelby Richmond. As a high school senior, Shelby is driving with her best friend Helene one snowy February night on Long Island when her car goes out of control, leaving Helene in a coma and Shelby ridden with guilt. After a suicide attempt, three months in a psychiatric institution, and a couple of years hiding out in her parents’ basement smoking marijuana, Shelby moves to Manhattan, gets a job, makes friends, rescues several dogs, finds a calling, and finds and loses and then finds love. She’s helped along on this path by homemade postcards from a mysterious source with messages such as “Feel something” and “Save something.” A subplot involving the magical powers attributed to Helene by the hundreds of people who troop faithfully to her door in hopes of a cure goes almost nowhere, and Shelby’s life—one learning experience after another—is oddly episodic. The novel, with its hopeful message and well-intentioned characters, will appeal for the relatability of Shelby’s slow coming-of-age, romantic difficulties (many of her own making), difficulty in choosing a career, and changing relationship with her parents. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM Partners. (Nov.)