Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book


Rate this book
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

258 pages, Hardcover

First published February 9, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alice Hoffman

110 books20.9k followers
Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew; The Marriage of Opposites; The Red Garden; The Museum of Extraordinary Things; The Dovekeepers; Here on Earth, an Oprah’s Book Club selection; and the Practical Magic series, including Practical
Magic; Magic Lessons; The Rules of Magic, a selection of Reese’s Book Club; and The Book of Magic. She lives near Boston.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
10,561 (29%)
4 stars
16,319 (46%)
3 stars
6,969 (19%)
2 stars
1,264 (3%)
1 star
330 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,478 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,192 followers
October 16, 2016
Alice Hoffman is a prolific writer, having written at least thirty novels . I have read just three of them and it is apparent to me what a great story teller she is . Whether its historical fiction or a contemporary story like this one, her characters are real and relatable and I admire her ability to write across genres. While this felt YA at first , it became clear that what happened to Shelby and Helene could happen to anyone and how Shelby deals with it or didn't actually , could happen to anyone. Some have referred to this as a coming of age story but I see it more as a coming to grips story- facing the emotional trauma and depression that came for Shelby after a horrific car accident. It was a quick read. I read it in a day, and felt emotionally drained at times but couldn't stop reading. I felt for Shelby right from the beginning hoping she could forgive herself, care about herself as she deals with guilt, depression and lack of self worth.

Shelby's relationships - with her best friend Helene, with her mother, Sue (I especially loved this connection in particular towards the end), with Ben, with Maravelle and her children, and finally with James are central to her journey. These are characters you'll care about . And I can't forget about the dogs she saves or is it the other way around? There's a lot here - what it means to love, the depth of friendships, surviving the bad things that life sometimes deals us .

"Say something."
" Be something."
"Feel something."
"See something."
"Save something."
"Believe something."
"Trust someone."

I received an ARC of this book from Simon & Schuster through NetGalley and I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.7k followers
February 13, 2017
Never underestimate the power of rescued dogs, anonymous postcards or lots and lots of Chinese food.

Wow . . . talk about a punch to the gut! An emotional journey, from the first few pages to the final few words, it was kind of draining, but in the best way possible. If that even makes sense. Sometimes a sad and poignant read just hits the spot. And much like life, everything is an ebb and flow. The tough times make the good times, or in this case, the ending, that much sweeter.

It’s so easy for anyone sitting on the outside of a situation to pass judgment. To be definitive in what they would do or how they would live their lives differently. The same was true for just about everyone in Shelby’s life. After a horrific accident leaves her best friend in a comma (this is a little bit of an odd situation) and she’s able to walk away virtually unharmed, Shelby has tremendous guilt. Guilt that makes her jump into a pool of extreme self-destruction and not come up for air - for quite some time.

“I think I lost my soul.”

She lands in New York, with a guy from high school, but she’s just going through the motions. She knows deep down, she doesn't love him the way she should and it's impossible to escape the niggling feeling that she's destined for so much more. But does she deserve it? Everyone needs to figure things out at their own pace though and that's exactly what lent this story credibility. Shelby made a ton of mistakes and pushed people away; until she couldn't ignore what was right in front of her face. It was little things, coming together at just the right moments, that gave her the strength to find her way to the surface and let go. To forgive herself. Well, and a combination of tough love, angsty teenagers, stolen dogs (if you’re an animal lover, you’re in for a treat), anonymous postcards and a diet of chinese food, sans the fortune cookies.

"What is behind you is gone, what is in front of you awaits."

My favorite part of the entire story was the postcards, of course. All with different messages urging her to do things like - say something, do something, be something, feel something, want something, save something, believe something, love something. Those little cards gave this heartbreaking story a touch of mystery. I was anxious to figure out who was behind the words. I would be lying if I said the love story junkie within me wasn’t completely smitten. I kind of thought things were headed in a different direction, but it just goes to show that things come along where or when you least expect them to. And might be even better than what you initially hoped for.

"Love is a mystery. It’s like an alien abduction. You think you’re on earth, and there you are among the stars."

With only two Alice Hoffman books under my belt, she’s convinced me, I have to find the time to read more of her writing. The only other book of hers I’ve read, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, had an entirely different feel, but what they both have in common - her beautiful words. She strings together these meaningful thoughts and being the sentimental person I am, I can't help but to eat it up.

*Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews585 followers
August 5, 2016
Oh Boy....."Houston I have some issues I need to discuss"

Shelby Richmond, was the driver. There was a car accident. Physically, Shelby is not hurt.
Helene, Shelby's best friend, was the passenger. Helene is left comatose.

The theme that reached into my heart immediately was the "how in the hell
was Shelby going to learn to forgive herself." - ( she was only 17 years old), so that this very sad tragedy doesn't make 'her' comatose for the rest of her life.
I felt Alice Hoffman did an excellent job crafting this theme. It was very good - engaging - well done - with wise messages to boot...( exhausting at times - draining- but possibility realistic). Truth is, I'm not sure if Shelby's behavior was realistic or not. I hope I never have to find out.....but at least I felt the topic was fully developed!

However I thought there were side themes left hanging....not developed.

Honestly - for one thing, I don't understand why this story had Helene live at all?
We certainly never get a chance to explore her living in her parents home, as a brain injury daughter for eight years?
The first thing I said to my husband after reading this book, "is don't ever leave me in a spare bedroom in this house -in bed - with no brain activity - for eight years. And I
certainly would not want people coming over to receive a type of blessing.
I had an issue with Helene being in her parents home for those eight years. Her parents seemed a little too perky accepting in my opinion, too. How do they know what Helene can hear... -as they tell the visitors?
Oh and for the first two years after the accident - kids from the school - who did 'not' know Helene were crying? I just don't think that's how kids would be for two years.
And if they were...we should have heard a speech at a school Assembly. It might have been valuable if Shelby would have had a chance to speak to the students.

There was a rape scene just went away faster than it was mentioned.

There was a time when Shelby ran into a neighbor who was just coming out of the house from seeing Helene when she tells Shelby ...."oh Helene is such a beautiful girl".
I'm thinking... "The accident is still somewhat new...does she know who she is talking with"? It just felt like the most odd thing to say.

As for the love interests ....I felt the relationship -with Ben was fully developed ....
but with James...not at all.

The postcards....( too airy-fairy for my personal taste) - they didn't really go anywhere.
They were not 'enough' in our face to be 'satire'....and as a 'message'...
well, I didn't feel any emotion from them.

A favorite part of this story was 'closer' towards the end....( I felt real emotions)...
was between Shelby and her mother. It was absolutely beautiful and touching.
Love that part.

So.... Overall... The story had me turning pages. I think it's a 'great' story for young women. Some good dating messages. Actually many wise messages.
For me... There are flaws in this novel......but a book discussion will support 'reader-concerns' and enhance the experience and completion.
There is no question Alice Hoffman opens our minds and hearts. Some of the 'work' is left for us to unravel.

Thank You Simon & Schuster, Netgalley, and Alice Hoffman

Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
March 26, 2017
I can hardly believe that I have never read a novel by ALICE HOFFMAN before..........
What was I thinking and where have I been? Obviously not in the right section of the bookstore!

FAITHFUL by ALICE HOFFMAN was a spellbinding and beautifully told coming-of-age story that I devoured in two sittings which rarely happens for me as I normally don't get that much time to read in a sitting!

Although I do find the embossed floral blue COVER of this book very attractive and pretty it isn't the reason I chose this book to read. It was actually chosen for me to read by my thoughtful sister who bought this book and let me read it first. She is so nice! Thank you, Brenda!

To be totally honest while I was reading this novel I didn't really discover any clues or figure out the reasoning behind why the author chose this particular TITLE for her book.  I looked up the definition of FAITHFUL and it means loyal, constant, and steadfast.  So I am taking a guess here that this is directed more to the anonymous postcards that Shelby received which had some motivational and inspirational sayings on them to help Shelby through her grief, survivor guilt, and recovery.

I really enjoyed the main CHARACTER (Shelby) and the relationships that were formed as we followed along her journey to see if she was able to have closure and forgive herself.  I was captivated by ALICE HOFFMAN’S writing style here as I was never bored and she had me wanting to turn those pages rather quickly.

The ENDING was heartwarming, touching, and satisfying for another enjoyable read. Would recommend!!

All of Brenda and my reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for Debbie.
454 reviews2,886 followers
February 10, 2017

Last century (!) I read Hoffman’s Turtle Moon and loved it. The next thing I knew, Hoffman started writing woo woo stuff, like Practical Magic, and I ran the other way.

I might have made up the term “woo woo”—sounds like something I’d do—so let me explain. By woo woo I mean all things magic, psychic, ghosty, New Age-y, paranormal, and supernatural. Angels, devils, miracles—all woo woo. Woo woo and I don’t get along very well (with one notable exception, the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear). Even though I totally love saying woo woo, I must get back to this review.

So when I began Faithful and read that people were visiting a girl in a coma because she performed miracles, I just about stopped reading. Uh oh, woo woo alert! Try to sell me a miracle, I’ll back off. But since the miracle stuff wasn’t front and center (it was more like an aside), I gambled and kept reading. Good thing I did, because I ended up liking this book a lot. There was some talk of angels too, but I found I could ignore it and keep my eye on the cool heroine, Shelby, who was not woo woo in the least.

The whole show is about Shelby, a teen who transforms from a down-and-outer to a cool chick, and in so doing inspired me to add two new bookshelves! When a book makes me sit up and create lists, you can bet it’s one that will grab 4 stars from me. I will say that Shelby’s down-and-out gloomy days lasted a tad too long (as in monotonous), but then she entered cool chick land and I got way caught up in it.

I’m clapping for Hoffman’s ability to create a character I cared about so much. It must be hard for a writer to get you to feel for a heroine, and though I don’t call it a miracle, I do call it magical (but definitely not in a woo woo sort of way). It feels so damn good to be that invested. It happens in movies a lot for me, but not so often in books.

As I said, Shelby started as a down-and-outer, edgy and dark. I felt like a nosy but concerned aunt (or even the at-her-wits-end mother), following Shelby’s every step, rooting for her to rejoin the living. I fretted endlessly about her. Would she ever recover from the tragedy that consumed her, that caused her to remain in fetal position so long and to withdraw from life so completely? Like the eternally worried mother, I was relieved when she moved to the city and let someone take care of her, even if she did so passively. I was ecstatic when Shelby found friends, I cringed when she hurt anyone’s heart, I grimaced when she made stupid choices, I gleamed when she rescued animals. Actually, the fact that she rescued animals earned the book extra points—I forgot how cozy and fun it is to have the hero be an animal lover.

Partly this book is about the power of friendship, because Shelby started to come alive once she let herself have a friend and be a friend. And it’s about how rescuing can be therapeutic: Friends rescued her and she rescued animals. I’d like to say that she was willing to dip her toes in the water, that she bravely worked at getting better, at fighting the depression and accompanying inertia, the pain that made her lifeless and tortured. But actually, life happened to her—she wasn’t consciously working on it. Watching her grow into a functional, happy person was just so satisfying, says this proud auntie. See? I’m talking about her as if she were real! Only a great storyteller can make that happen.

But, of course, there is a Complaint Board:

-The book is dangerously close to woo woo land, as I’ve said. (Yay! I got to say woo woo again!)

-The language is simplistic; sometimes I thought it bordered on chick lit.

-I found a couple of instances where an editor failed. Hoffman used the same phrase in one chapter (just sloppy) and mentioned a dog was starving but carried it around instead of feeding it (sloppier). No biggies, but annoying nonetheless because they took me out of the story for a minute.

-Not important, but I don’t like the book title. I can’t seem to make it fit with the content at all.

-The ending is weak—sappy and pat.

But despite my whining, when I finished the book I was left with a good feeling. This is an uplifting coming-of-age story about a young tortured soul who very slowly rejoins the living. Hoffman’s writing style, though simple, draws you in, and it’s a fast and satisfying read. Check it out!

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,795 reviews2,388 followers
November 1, 2016

4.5 Stars

In High School, Helene was a shining star, Shelby her faithful sidekick. But it was Helene that all the other girls wanted to be, or be like, and it was Helene who all the boys wanted. But that was part of the life before, never to be the same again.

Before she ever left the hospital, she received a postcard with a sketch on one side, and on the other the words: “Say something.” It’s two years before she receives a second card, this with a picture of her house, a shadow of herself infinitesimally small through the basement window, on the other side the words: “Do something.”

Shelby’s life changed overnight, the night it happened. Her life placed on pause. Everything she thought, everything she believed in is irrelevant. Every thought, every minute, every hour is spent mentally trying to make amends, to force time backwards, tick by tick, until that night would end as peacefully as all the nights before it. She can’t escape the guilt, even after years, it’s with her, like a ghostly companion escorting her through her days. In penance, she lets her appearance go, the hair, the makeup, gone, unimportant. She lives in the shadows.

Ben was a bit of an outsider in school, the boy who walked around with his head down, a Vonnegut book under his arm. Shelby’s a newly self-appointed loser, somehow Shelby and Ben manage to fall into a friendship, then more, and later move to New York City. Ben’s unfailingly nice, gentle. Tender. Shelby sees this as a sign that they’re not right for each other.

The postcards continue through time, via her mother now. Never stamped, always hand delivered. Always with a message.

Eventually, Shelby finds a job at a pet store, where she meets Maravelle, a very young mother to three kids. Shelby finds she being drawn to down-on-their-luck pets, those needing rescue from their owners. First two, and then a third. Maravelle suddenly needs her help with her children, as a babysitter for a few days, and suddenly she is needed. She doesn’t have time to contemplate this, or even recognize it for what it is, she just does what she needs to do, getting through each day.
Many orders of Chinese food later, who knows how many bags of dog food later, and several postcards later, Shelby begins to see the light.

Part coming of age story, this is so much more. It’s a story about families, imperfect though they may be. About loyalty and betrayal. Overwhelming grief and redemption. About finding, and keeping real love, after all.

Pub Date: 1 November 2016

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster, NetGalley and to the author, Alice Hoffman for providing me with an advanced copy
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,847 reviews397 followers
July 1, 2016
DNF 40%

There is no way I want to follow this character any more. Seriously, if you know someone like this, they need a mental health intervention. I am disappointed that this was categorized as Women's Fiction. This reads more like Young Adult or New Adult at best.

The main character is late teens when we first meet and psychologically devastated by events her senior year of high school. With the loss of her best friend she withers. This first part has intense Judeo-Christian ideology and symbolism, which makes sense considering the title, but unfortunately, I parsed it as in fidelity to their friendship. It's not the ideology I have issues with, rather the simplistic symbolism vehicle: miracles, angels, black and white, beatification, etc.

This book is enamored with symbolism, allusions to Snow White and direct reference to Red Riding Hood. The second part sees Shelby's view of herself through the ugly dogs she "saves". Perhaps there is some great transformative character via fairy tales or the abandonment here that will eventually play out, but the character is so unlikeable--I don't care.

This book needs a content editor. No one stays in the ER for a night, you get treated or go to surgery and then Recovery, and depending on how critical your injuries are ICU. A Psych ward is not going to pass that postcard along. Everything is vetted. Where is she getting the money? How can you describe someone as wearing a hat and bald, at the same time? Stepford wife? She's not even trying to be perfect; she's the anti-Stepford wife.

All this combined with the hackneyed there's a boy behind all this trauma, and stupidness, and everyone not knowing what their angel was really like smells like Eau de After School Special. No one sees or understands me! So, I shave my head and hide in my parents' basement. I hate myself so much I'll make the outside of me look like the inside.

I'm too old for this. I was too old for this when I was Shelby's age.

~~ARC provided by NetGalley~~
Profile Image for Debra .
2,412 reviews35.2k followers
April 15, 2018
Received from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Save Something
Say Something
Want Something

These are tidbits of advice that Shelby receives from her "Angel" after surviving a car crash that resulted in her friend being in a Coma. Shelby is pulled out of the wreckage by her Angel but suffers from survivor’s quilt and depression. She cannot find the way to forgive herself for the accident that injured her friend so badly. She can't accept that she got to walk away while her friend will never walk again. Forgiveness is not something she is willing to do for herself. She is not to blame for the accident, but she finds that she cannot move on with her life. She is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she is repeatedly sexually assaulted, and then punishes herself for not being injured by shaving her head, self-medicating with marijuana, and watching television in her parent’s basement most of the day. Eventually her relationship with Ben, her "dealer", becomes romantic and they both move together to NYC in attempts to better their lives. He goes to school to become a pharmacist and she gets a job in a pet store.

She makes a new friend at the pet store which is a big step for her. Shelby continues to grow as she saves animals and cares for her friend's children in her absence. Along the way, we witness Shelby make both good and bad decisions. Throughout her ups and downs she continues to get words of advice from her angel. She tends to take the advice and finds that by doing so she is helping herself to grow and move on. Eventually she finds her calling and makes progress toward her goals. She even gets to learn the identity of the person leaving her the notes. Ssh, I'm not telling.

This book initially read like a YA book for me. I really liked the characters of Ben and Shelby's Mom. I loved how her Mom was always supportive and always there for her even when Shelby could not see that.

This is not vintage Hoffman. At times I longed for vintage Hoffman. I enjoyed this book but not as much as some of her other works. Perhaps she was reaching for a younger audience here. Like I mentioned earlier, the beginning felt like a YA book to me. This book does have symbolism as do her other books. This book is big on forgiveness, acceptance, love, betrayal, loss, infidelity, moving on, and simply living.

I think fans of Hoffman (as well as others) will enjoy this book. I found it to be a fast-easy read.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,779 reviews14.2k followers
September 27, 2016
3.5 There are two different Shelbys. The before Shelby, seventeen, fun loving, popular in school, a good student and there is the after Shelby. After the accident where Shelby was the driver and made it but her best friend would live paralyzed and in a comma. How does one forgive herself after something like this? Go on and live a life knowing the other person can't? Survivor guilt. This is her story and parts of it are not pretty.

A different read from the Hoffman of the last few years but her understanding of people and their imperfections, traumas shine through. I cheered with this character, sympathized with her and at one point was heartbroken when she made a decision I didn't agree with. I applauded her watching as she, almost against her will, tried to move forward and forgive herself. A very poignant story and one that touched me, that I found credible and with characters I loved.

ARC from Netgalley.

Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,309 reviews120k followers
July 29, 2021
The doctors and her parents can call her condition whatever they wish; Shelby knows what’s wrong with her. She is paying her penance. She is stopping her life, matching her breathing so that it has become a counterpart of the slow intake of air of a girl in a coma. She looks at her postcard every night to remind herself of what they’ll do to her if she allows people to know how damaged she is and takes to silence again. They’ll lock her up and then she’ll disappear for good.
She was disappearing inch by inch, vanishing into thin air, and then one day a postcard arrived.
Have you ever had a monster period, a time when, for whatever reason, you behaved in a way that was not in your best interest? I expect these usually occur during or soon after adolescence. Mine did, following and/or during a series of traumas, mostly emotional, but including a pretty bad injury. Nothing criminal involved during this period, at least nothing I will admit to here. (There was a fair bit of weed used early on during these grim days.) But it was a dark time, when the future seemed unwelcoming, possibilities minimal, when ill-advised, self-destructive options were considered. Self-imposed social isolation was a part of that. Thankfully, I survived. My adolescent brain grew into adulthood (some say) and I was a monster no more, just a regular schlub, which I remain.

Alice Hoffman - Image from WABE

Shelby Richmond’s trauma was a lot worse than mine. (Although I sustained more physical damage) The car she was driving on a winter’s night hit a patch of black ice and spun out, crashing. Shelby was able to walk away. The other young woman in the car with her, Helene, her bff, survived, but not in a good way, condemned to live in a permanent coma. Thus, suffering PTSD, and a huge case of survivor’s guilt, Shelby pounds herself into, and beneath., the ground with a self-hating pile driver, even though she had done nothing wrong. She even spends some time in a psych ward. There are plenty eager to assist in driving her down, as Helene had been hugely popular, and the blaming urge often takes no account of the truth. Shelby is now a pariah.
When I write, I usually have a question that I need to have answered. For this book, it was: Can you have been so damaged at a young age and still be able to pull yourself together and find your way out? That’s what I wanted to know, and that’s where the character of Shelby led me. I’m a cancer survivor 18 years. But even before that, this is what I’ve been writing about. I think I’ve been writing continuously about survivorship. So, it is a grim premise, but I think of the book as funny and moving. - from the Washington Post interview
She manifests her low self-regard by passing on going to college, shaving off all her hair, hiding out in her parents’ basement, making herself as unattractive on the outside as she feels on the inside, sleeping as much as possible, and self-medicating with a constant supply of weed. Does that make her a bad person?

The Strand - image from CNN

But on the night of the accident, after she had been thrown from the car, someone appeared, dressed in black (not Johnny Cash), someone who helped her, then disappeared. Was this an angel? A Good Samaritan? If you have read Alice Hoffman before, you know that she enjoys mixing a bit of magic into her tales, so all things are possible. Helene, for example, soon acquires a following, as people become convinced that she had somehow cured them of their ills, from her bed, comatose. Candles lit for her remain lit an unnaturally long time. Soon after the accident, Shelby begins receiving postcards, urging her to move on with her life in some way, messages like “Do something,” or “Trust someone,” “Say something,” “Do something,” or similar. These continue to arrive through most of the book. Shelby takes these as messages from beyond, offering her encouragement to take specific steps in her life, commandments maybe, or some sort of divine guidance. Do they come from Helene somehow? And so, in an act of faith, she decides, whatever the source, What the heck? What’s to lose?

Petco on Union Square

The results of her actions propel the story forward, as Shelby slowly emerges from her monsterhood, revealing the caring, if damaged, person beneath. Reconnecting to humanity is not exactly her strong suit, beginning from a point of undernourished self-loathing, big black boots, and a shaved head, but it is a way back to having a life, having a future. Following along as Shelby slowly emerges from her…um…shell is a heart-warming, lovely experience. As Shelby extends her heart to the world, the world (sometimes) rewards her. She finds that there is much more to her drug dealer than she’d thought. She gets an actual job. She copes with being in an actual relationship. She makes an actual friend.

Hoffman often writes about families, sisters, mothers and daughters. In this one, it is faith in each other that is most important, particularly between Shelby and her mother, who never loses faith in her. The connection between them is resonant with the strong bond Hoffman had with her mother. There is also a strong element of needing to be really seen.
I feel that it’s everyone’s wish to have someone who really knows who they are. One of the ways that’s accomplished is through reading. The postcards are a kind of symbol for reading. When we read a book, if the book is right for us, and if the book is good, it’s not just that we know the characters — we feel known. We feel this connection. When I read “Catcher in the Rye,” I thought: How did he know how I feel? To some extent, that’s what happens to Shelby with those postcards: Somebody knows her. - from the Washington Post interview
It is always easy to read Alice Hoffman’s books. There is a smoothness to her prose that welcomes the reader to settle in and enjoy a good story. She makes her characters feel familiar. Part of that is accomplished by putting bits from her personal life on the page.
The characters in Faithful visit her two favorite bookstores—The Strand in New York City and The Book Revue in Huntington, N.Y. They even mention her favorite books, including Andrew Lang’s color-coded series of fairy tales and the Misty of Chicoteague series. - from the Publishers Weekly interview
She is particularly fond of Leonard Cohen and Ray Bradbury, both of whom are noted in the book.

There is humor to be found, particularly when Shelby rescues some in need of help, whether of the furry or human sort. You won’t be shooting your latte out your nose, but there is some funny material here. Helene is introduced, with a magical element, but the magic in this one is more in the relationships than in the mystical realm. On occasion, things can get a bit Hallmarkian. She wonders if it’s possible that when she rescued them, they rescued her as well. While we understand that Shelby is taking a leap when she accedes to the fortune-cookie directions offered in the messages she receives, it can still be a bit tough to keep from eye-rolling.

This is not my favorite Alice Hoffman novel, but that is a pretty high bar, as Hoffman has written so many outstanding books. It is, though, a sweet, enjoyable, moving, and easy read. We all carry scars, particularly from our lowest days. The question is whether we can get past the scarring, find our way back so some semblance of what our lives should, or could, be and carry on. It would not be wrong to say that it takes a bit of luck to evade the worst possible outcomes from our bad times, and a bit of faith (not the religious sort, necessarily) to continue on. Faithful gives us a nudge in the direction of hope, in having some belief in the healing power of real, lifelong love, in the continued existence of possibility.
“Faithful” opens with an epigraph from Leonard Cohen. The lyrics are from his song “Anthem:”
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
I think that’s the truth of life – that we’re all damaged, and we can’t help but be broken and damaged,” she said. “And that’s the only way we can advance and understand more of the world and more of ourselves.”
- from the WABE interview

Review posted – July 23, 2021

Publication date – November 6, 2016

I read this as a bought e-book, but it was sent along a few years back by a certain person at GR, also as an e-book. I did not get around to it then, but am glad I finally did. Thanks, MC.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Instagram and FB pages

-----Washington Post - Alice Hoffman: ‘I’ve been writing continuously about survivorship’ by Carol Burns
-----Pittsburgh City Paper - A conversation with novelist Alice Hoffman by Caralyn Green
-----Publishers Weekly - Surviving Survivor's Guilt: Alice Hoffman
-----The Writer - Alice Hoffman interview: Story magic by Jack Smith – on her writing process, not this book in particular
-----WABE - Alice Hoffman’s ‘Faithful’ Features Wry Humor, Forgiveness

Other Hoffman books I have reviewed:
-----1999 - Local Girls
-----2003 - Green Angel
-----2004 - Blackbird House
-----2005 - The Ice Queen
-----2011 - The Red Garden
-----2011 - The Dovekeepers
-----2017 - The Rules of Magic
-----2019 - The World That We Knew

Item of Interest
-----CNN - New York's Strand bookstores received 25,000 orders in one weekend after asking for help by Alaa Elassar
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,509 reviews29.4k followers
October 5, 2016
I'd rate this 4.5 stars, maybe even 4.75.

"Shelby knows what's wrong with her. She is paying her penance. She is stopping her life, matching her breathing so that it has become a counterpart of the slow intake of air of a girl in a coma."

Shelby and Helene were inseparable best friends from the moment they met in childhood. Helene was always known to be the prettier one, and Shelby was fine with that—she was just happy to be part of Helene's orbit. But as often happens with childhood friendships, as high school drew to a close, Shelby became more and more frustrated with Helene's superior attitude, her habit of treating people (including Shelby) with disdain, simply telling them what they want to hear in order to get what she wants.

One night, while driving to a party Shelby doesn't want to go to, but afraid to lose Helene's friendship, there is an accident. Shelby is able to essentially walk away from the accident mostly unharmed (at least physically); Helene is left in an irreversible coma. From that moment on, Shelby knows her life is destined to go nowhere—she must pay the price for destroying her best friend's life. She lives in the basement of her parents' suburban Long Island home, college, and life, for that matter are no longer an option. She burns with anger and guilt, not allowing anyone to get close to her, except the former high school classmate who sells her drugs to numb her pain.

But as Shelby lives every day as if it is her punishment, she has occasional glimmers of hope. She receives anonymous postcards from a shadowy man who she thinks of as her guardian angel, a man who has been watching over her since the night of the accident. But she doesn't know whether this person is real or if someone is playing a joke on her, hoping she'll let her guard down enough to wound her. She moves to New York City and slowly, unexpectedly, starts to eke out traces of a life for herself, although she never allows herself to feel truly happy with anyone or comfortable anywhere, because how would that be fair?

Faithful is an exquisitely beautiful book about feeling unworthy of happiness or success because you believe you must pay the price for a costly misstep. It's a book about being surprised when the people who matter don't walk away no matter how hard you push them to, and realizing that one accident doesn't mean you are damaged goods forever. But more than that it's a book about learning to give yourself to other people again, learning to let yourself experience the joys of friendship, love, and having people depend on you—and realize that you can't punish yourself forever.

This book started off a little slow, and I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it, because at the beginning, Shelby is a miserable character. (Rightfully so, but still...) The tone and the subject matter reminded me a little bit of Susan Perabo's The Fall of Lisa Bellow (which I just read), in that one girl wonders why she was able to evade the disaster which befell another. But little by little, as Shelby's tough, angry, hurting exterior started to give way, I fell in love with this incredible story and these characters.

Not everything in this book works perfectly, but the emotion and the heart of the plot are just amazing. There were times I worried that Alice Hoffman was going to veer the plot into truly bleak territory and I think I might have given up on the book if she did, but she just kept letting the reader discover the kind of person Shelby was, at just about the same time Shelby was rediscovering that. Shelby is a fascinating, well-drawn character I just loved reading about.

I've read so many of Hoffman's books over the years, and I've always been a huge fan. ( Here on Earth , while perhaps a little melodramatic, is one of my all-time favorites.) But because the subjects of her last few books didn't appeal to me, I had nearly forgotten how much I love the way she writes. I'm so happy to have "found" her again, because despite its faults, I really loved Faithful . I just don't think you can go wrong with a book that gives you a little bit of hope, you know?

NetGalley and Simon & Schuster provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for *TANYA*.
1,002 reviews312 followers
February 26, 2017
4.5 stars!! What a great coming-of-age type book!! It had everything tragedy, friendship, & romance. I will be reading more of Alice Hoffman's books. One more great book like this one and I might just have another favorite author.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
January 17, 2019
Akin to myriad other victory-over-adversity novels featuring a feminine soul (I am thinking way back to W. Lamb's "She's come undone"; I'm EVEN thinking Bridget Jones, Jemima J., even, heck, Precious from 'Push' by Sapphire)... it's got a lot going for it. Effective beach-side worthy prose. Great symbols to highlight, elements that get repeated: At the end of the day, it's a tale about a chick who has survivor's guilt, gets a tattoo, has the audacity to quit steady gigs in New York City, & keeps a shitload of dogs just because, you know, she cannot relate to humanity. Not interested in my dull entitled next door neighbor-millennial's life! Not, perhaps, the best intro to Hoffman.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,362 followers
October 26, 2016
3.5 stars. Faithfull was hard to read. It wasn’t hard to read because it’s bad or is written in a challenging style, but because it’s sad and for a long time it feels relentlessly sad. When she was 17 years old, Shelby was in a car accident with her best friend Helene. The accident left Helene brain damaged, and it caused Shelby to go into a tail spin of guilt and depression. Shelby can’t find the way to forgiving herself, so she pushes people away and makes her life as narrow and bleak as possible. Slowly, over the course of years, with the kindness of a few great characters – including her mother and several stray dogs – Shelby finds her way out of this dark place. Reading Faithful felt like a test of my sense of compassion. It’s like spending time with someone who has had a terrible experience, who just can’t get beyond the sadness, trauma and sense of loss. Everyone has sympathy at first, but only true friends will stick around because there is ultimately something wearing about watching over someone else’s helpless sadness and guilt for so long. While I felt for Shelby, I also wanted to shake her, to tell her that she could stop hating herself, that no good would come from all her dark feelings. But grief, guilt and sadness run on their own clock… It’s not a flaw in the book; it’s actually one of the book’s strengths that Hoffman is able to convey Shelby’s experience so potently. But it does mean that reading Faithful is hard, and fortunately things get easier when Shelby emerges from her dark space toward the end of the book. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
634 reviews567 followers
August 27, 2020
Faithful is the book you can't help but notice. It's beautiful cover is what draw my attention immediately, but after I read it's synopsis I just had a feeling this book might be something I'd like.
I'm not even sure how to describe it, I just had a feeling this book will be right for me.
I am so thankful I was right.

This book was beautiful. There is no other way to describe it.


And hopeful, because when I finished it, it left me in hope that life can get better, people can make something out of their lives after the fall, even after dark places and hard times.

The story follows Shelby who was in a car accident that left her friend in vegetative state.
Shelby was the one who drove, and now she feels guilty for her friend's stolen life.
She can't help but feel responsible for what happened, knowing that she's the one who had put her friend in the state that she is now, the state that turned her into a sleeping beauty in a way.

Faithful is written in first person. From Shelby's POV we get to see a life of a young girl during time period of several years, where she do her best to overcome her guiltiness and grows as a person, making her life with no perspective turn into a life with potential to be a good one.

The writing style is simply beautiful. It takes more time to progress everything that's written, but it is worth it.
This is the first book by Hoffman I have read, and it left me wanting to read more.

Shelby was an interesting protagonist. I understand why some readers might find her unlikeable, but I emphatized with her the whole time.
She had some moves that I wouldn't approve, but still I understood her.
Side characters were well developed and they radiated with realness.

This book deals with depression in, to me, very realistic way.
It also talks about feeling of guilt that can overtake someone's life.

I like how love for animals has been present the whole time but it did not overtake the main story.

Everything was just done very tasteful and I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have read this year.

Note: I got this book for free via Netgalley in an exchange for an honest review. Thank you Simon & Schuster.

Read this and more reviews on my blog: https://bookdustmagic.com
Profile Image for Sam.
142 reviews338 followers
March 2, 2017
I'm of two minds on Faithful, the first book I've read by Alice Hoffman. Focused on one young woman, Shelby Richmond, the novel has the feel of a coming of age tale, but is probably more accurately about how Shelby comes to terms with her guilt, her anger, and her self-pity that follow her through life after a car accident in which her friend is rendered brain dead. There's a lot in here, a short novel that is packed with ideas and symbolism and major plot points, and while Hoffman is a beautiful writer, not all of it works well and the craft of the plot felt uneven at times. But this book is exemplary at pulling on your heartstrings, and it pulled mine very effectively. So overall I'd give this 3.5 stars, and round up to 4.

Feelings are best left concealed. They can bite you if you're not careful. They can eat you alive.

We begin with Shelby as a teenager, in a state of frozen time, hiding in her parents basement and almost entirely disconnected from the world around her following the accident. We discover that directly following the accident, Shelby tried to commit suicide, leading to her hospitalization where her disconnect from reality is exacerbated by an orderly who rapes her repeatedly. These early parts are harsh and hard to read, though in some ways kind of glossed over by Hoffman and not dealt with as deeply as one might think. It does the trick of establishing Shelby's backstory, and giving cause for her blackened, fragile state.

We move on as Shelby moves on into adulthood, and little slivers of light begin to penetrate and crack the cloud of depression and darkness. Her progress forward, her ability to come to terms with what happened and forgive herself are hampered by Shelby herself, setbacks here and there. She makes poor decisions, she pushes people she loves away, she is mean, cutting, oblivious and uncaring to the feelings of others. Yet we begin to root for her as she takes tentative steps forward, feels a calling for recognizing fellow battered and bruised creatures and rescuing quite a few animals along the way. She begins to uncoil, to open up again, slowly coming around to her own worth and value, and developing a life of meaning for herself. Some things that happen feel like they happen to Shelby (the promotion to manager of the pet store) but Hoffman does a pretty good job of showing Shelby slowly regaining control and power over her own life and destiny, nodded to cutely in the ongoing refusal to open fortune cookies, until the very end when she receives her most on the nose fortune: "What is behind you is gone, what is in front of you awaits."

Love is a mystery. It's like an alien abduction. You think you're on earth, and there you are among the stars.

Shelby feels haunted by her own ragged emotions. Is this what love does to you? Makes you feel accountable for things you can't control?

"He told me he wanted the chance to be in love again. He has no idea that being in love is bullshit. It's knowing someone down to their soul that matters. That's what love is. It's difficult and it's real and it doesn't change.

I used these quotes, sprinkled throughout the novel, to show just how important love and self-love are for the characters in Faithful. Shelby's lack of love for herself has been touched on, but just as important is her relationship with her mother, one that is the most moving and the best drawn in the novel. Her mother begins as an irritant to Shelby, someone hovering over her and constantly worrying over her, and Shelby at that point in a fog of depression and self-pity cannot connect with her at all. By the novel's end, without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that Shelby understands and is awed by the depth of her mother's love, and their relationship is greatly strengthened, something that helps Shelby continue her climb out of her darkest place. The moment where Sue slaps Shelby in the car is powerful, and very well done by Hoffman. Shelby's relationship with her colleague Maravelle and her family and the deep love and loyalty that develops is also well drawn, and feels random and sudden and natural, as real life friendship is. Her relationships with Ben and James are perhaps the least compelling, especially the latter: even though I was fine with Shelby getting a happy ending, the introduction of James and his role threaded through the whole of the novel felt a bit too neat for me.

You can never really remove yourself or your circumstances when writing a review of content: you approach a novel with your own perspective and history and taste. So while I responded well to Alice Hoffman's writing style, I felt Faithful sometimes meandered a bit too much. But I also read this just after Commonwealth and Moonglow where some major plot meanderings also happen but for me were executed better. That said, the emotional thrust of the book really worked for me, again, perhaps because I am in a specific point of my life where I can empathize greatly with Shelby's pain, sadness, and toxic combination of self-pity and self-disgust, and root for her to stop wallowing and enjoying living. So even while I had some issues with how the plot developed, I really love Hoffman's writing style, and the emotional impact was powerful. I would recommend this (with the caveat that there are trigger warning for readers sensitive to things like rape and self-harm) and I will absolutely read more from Hoffman in the future.
Profile Image for Stacey.
881 reviews161 followers
February 21, 2017
I was skeptical when I picked this up, but was rewarded in the end. Magical realism isn't my thing so when Shelby started receiving anonymous letters I was thinking, 'oh no, letters from beyond?' I was too hooked by that point to care. Shelby is dealing with a death of a friend that she feels responsible for and withdraws form everyone. Enter a friend, a few dogs, and endless Chinese food. The healing power of dogs really can soften a character so full of angst and guilt. I enjoyed this coming of age story as Shelby finds forgiveness, acceptance, and her calling.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,390 reviews4,906 followers
February 21, 2022

3.5 stars

Shelby Richmond is a high school senior preparing to attend NYU with her best friend, Helene Boyd, when an automobile accident intervenes. The car Shelby is driving skids on a patch of ice, leaving Helene in a perpetual coma and Shelby with only minor injuries.

Unable to get past the guilt, Shelby has a nervous breakdown and is institutionalized for several months.

Afterwards, Shelby holes up in her parents basement, eats little, cuts herself, smokes pot, and sleeps as much as she can.

Shelby's parents gamely pay for her first year's college tuition, but lose the money when Shelby doesn't go. One of Shelby's few human interactions is with Ben Mink, a pot dealer she's known since they were children. Though they don't talk much, Shelby feels comfortable with Ben, who also seems a bit lost.

The one thing Shelby values are occasional anonymous postcards delivered to her house, with original drawings and messages like 'Be Something' and 'Feel Something.'

Shelby feels like someone cares about her - and even wonders if that person is somehow Helene. In fact, some people think brain-dead Helene has special powers, and visit her to be healed - which Shelby finds abhorrent.

After Shelby has been hanging around with Ben for a couple of years, he - almost embarrassedly - confides that he's been taking an independent study course at college, has graduated, and is going to pharmacy school in New York. Ben persuades Shelby to move to the city with him and they get a tiny apartment on Manhattan's west side, where they share a bed and eat lots of take-out Chinese food.

Eventually Shelby gets a job stacking shelves at a pet store, which requires little interaction with other people, including her co-workers. In time, though, Shelby becomes friends with her colleague Maravelle, a single mother with a teen daughter and twin sons in grade school.

When Maravelle's called away, she even trusts Shelby to kidsit for a few days, and this is a critical event in Shelby's recovery.

Damaged as she is, Shelby has a soft spot for animals, and launches two rescue operations. First, Shelby kidnaps two hungry, dirty, bedraggled dogs...a little mutt and a bulldog... who are being rented out to homeless people - to help them beg for money. Shelby calls the small, semi-blind mutt 'Blinkie' and the bulldog 'General Tso.' Later, Shelby cuts through a fence to free a chained-up, mistreated Great Pyrenees, and names him 'Pablo.' The canines join Shelby and Ben in their little apartment, and Shelby - who's now the manager of the pet shop - gives herself discounts for animal supplies.

After a time Shelby meets a handsome veterinarian, Harper Levy, which leads to major changes in her life.

In the course of the story, Shelby interacts with a variety of characters, including: a nasty homeless girl; an adulterer; a Chinese restaurant delivery boy; her supportive mother; her distant father; a bully who won't take no for an answer; a pregnant woman; Helene's grieving parents; a tattoo artist; and others.....all of whom have some role in her inch-by-inch healing.

This is a moving story of a young woman's emotional journey, but Shelby's not always a likable girl. I admired Shelby's tenderness toward her dogs, but was put off by her callousness towards some humans, including those who cared for her most. I'm not sure PTSD can excuse this.

On the other hand, Ben Mink is a 'prince.' He looks after Shelby; lets her bring three dogs into their little apartment; overlooks her worst behavior; and more. Every girl should have a guy like this....if just for a little while. LOL

All in all, this is an uplifting tale that show's there can be recovery - and happiness - after a life-altering tragedy.

You can follow my reviews at http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
February 15, 2017
Alice Hoffman’s “Faithful” is a novel about Shelly Richmond, a young woman, who has her whole life ahead of her. It’s about fate and prevailing when all seems lost.

Shelby Richmond is a High School Senior when tragedy strikes and she and her best friend Helene Boyd get into an accident. She walks away, her life completely intact. Afterwards, Shelby loses her mind, her friends and loved ones and her sense of self. She finds love in animals who need rescuing and a new friend, Maravelle, whose family needs taking care of. Shelby, reaches the depths of despair and slowly but surely finds her way back by saving those who need her as much as she needs them.

Alice Hoffman’s Faithful was beautifully written. The book flowed from her fingertips, with characters you couldn’t help but care about. Her ability to make the character of Shelby extremely believable, yet lonely, awfully tragic and vulnerable, was exceptionally well done. I felt Shelby’s pain and heartache, but couldn’t help but love her and rally for her throughout the novel. The characters of Maravelle and Sue were also very well written and assisted in Shelby’s growth as a character.

Faithful is a book about friendship and love, conquering your fears, surviving things you don’t think you can survive, and most of all, finding compassion for yourself.

I must say that I absolutely adored this novel. I found myself sobbing throughout the last few chapters of it. It wrecked me in the best way possible. If you’re looking for a novel you can jump into heart and soul, this is it. If you’re looking to bring a book with you for an afternoon in the park, or if you need a book for a book club – I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Thank ever so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster and Alice Hoffman for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on: 8/3/16
** Will be published on Amazon on release date of: 11/1/16
March 8, 2017
I love stories like Faithful that explore characters who are flawed and scarred and that draw me into the their lives as they find their way in life. This makes for a powerful and interesting read for me.

The story is told by Shelby who was once an ordinary, happy girl. After an accident she suffers from survival guilt, feelings of worthlessness and depression. She punishes herself by hiding from the world and believing the world is better off without her. We follow her story as she discovers she has people around her that remain faithful to her and have faith she will survive.

I love the friendship Shelby has with Maravelle and the connection she makes with Maravelle’s children. Through them she learns just how much she can care for others.

I do have to admit there were some things in this story that didn’t quite work for me and would have liked a little better closure for someone but I won’t say what or who that is, as it could give away something.

Overall Faithful was a powerful read with a satisfying ending for me that I highly recommend.

All of Norma's and my reviews can be found on our sister blog
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,320 reviews2,142 followers
March 25, 2018
My experiences so far with Alice Hoffman's books have been varied but this was one of the good ones!

Poor Shelby right at the start of the book has survived a car crash which has left her best friend in a coma. At seventeen years of age she does not cope with the trauma at all and her life spins pretty much out of control. However there are people around her who love her and, despite all the walls she throws up, life does win in the end.

Hoffman does an excellent job of making the reader like Shelby despite every awful thing she does, and anyone who steals mistreated dogs from bad owners has to be okay! I very much enjoyed the postcards which arrived periodically from an unknown source and seemed to be spaced perfectly each with a little piece of advice to help her on the road to recovery.

The author writes well and the book is well paced, never dwelling too long on any one aspect of Shelby's sadness. I felt hope all the way through as different individuals supported her and made a difference. There was fun too along the way with humorous comments and some good times. It was an enjoyable read and I will continue to look out for this author's books.
Profile Image for Iris P.
171 reviews206 followers
February 8, 2017


I received an ARC from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange from an honest review, thank you!
Dear fellow reader, be aware that my review contains some spoilers.


Before reading this novel the only other book I'd read by Alice Hoffman was the extraordinary The Marriage of Opposites. That novel was the highlight of my 2015 reading year and although Faithful didn’t quite bring that level of utter bliss for me, it was still a very absorbing read. You can read my review of The Marriage of Opposites here.

Whereas The Marriage of Opposites is a whimsical historical fiction written in exuberant lyrical prose, Faithful is less fable and more realism, less intuition and more psychological exploration, less geography-centered and more path to redemption.

Still, I couldn't help but get captivated by the story of Shelby Richmond, a 17 year old girl whose rather ordinary life turns upside down on a fateful icy night, while driving with her friend on a Long Island roadway.

The one advice I remember getting during my last years in high school was this: enjoy them while they last because these will probably be the best years of your life. That might be true for most of us, but in Faithful we see how sudden our lives can be derailed and how quickly our well though-out plans can be permanently altered.

From the very first chapters we learn that Shelby was involved in a catastrophic accident that left her best friend Helene in a permanent comatose state.

When we find her, two years after the accident, Shelby is going on a downward spiral; she might have come out of the accident physically unscathed and Helene might be the one connected to a life-support machine, but this dramatic event has had a profound effect on Shelby’s mental health and it has taken her to a very dark place.

Before the accident, Shelby “was a good girl with a 3.8 average who planned to go to NYU and study history”, now paralyzed by guilt, she has become a recluse living on her parent’s basement, unable to move on with her life.

Eventually, Shelby’s mental instability force her parents to temporarily move her to a psychiatric ward where she is emotionally and physically abused. While staying there, she receives the first of many postcards sent by a mysterious stranger. This incident marks the beginning of the long and painful journey she’s will have to travel before she can hope to enjoy a normal, fulfilling life.

In search of a new life Shelby moves to Manhattan with Ben, her goodhearted boyfriend. She smokes pot, self-medicates and behaves in a pretty irresponsible manner.

Her lack of self-worth is evident in the way she approaches relationships, for example, when her boyfriend enrolls in college with plans of becoming a pharmacist, “Shelby assumes he’ll dump her by the time he succeeds at anything.” She has become one of those people that are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Shelby eventually finds a job at a pet store. Her expectations are so low that what initially motivates her to apply for it is simply “the desire for an air-conditioned environment.”

Meanwhile, the mysterious postcards keep coming, they always include a beautiful drawing and a hopeful message, “Do something”, “Want something”, “Be something” the cards read.

We also get to know a lighter side of Shelby, she has a penchant for Chinese food (although she doesn’t read the fortune cookies because “no one can predict what will happen”), bookstores, re-gifting and dogs. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and can’t fathom the idea of allowing any animal to suffer.
On the other hand, she also gravitates towards men that are for the most part, not very good for her.
Also she hasn't always being faithful to said men.

At the pet store, Shelby meets Maravelle, a single mother of three that becomes her best friend and someone whose sense of humor and optimism helps Shelby through moments of failures and heartbreaks. Maravelle is also a friend that celebrates Shelby’s achievements and rejoices when good fortune knocks at her friend's door.

There’s a moment when Maravelle needs to go away and leaves her 3 kids in the care of Shelby. She is not only terrified of assuming such a responsibility, she’s also dumbfounded by the trust Maravelle has put on her, “The responsibility of loving someone is too much for anyone to take”, she thinks, “which is why she’s done her best for avoid it.”

While reading this passage I was struck with the notion that one of the most meaningful ways to show someone you love them is not necessarily by doing something for them, but by trusting them to do something for you.

One of the most touching characters of the novel is Shelby’s mom. Her continuous guidance and her ability to gently encourage Shelby to become the person she knew she could be was truly moving.

I had a few issues with the story, the animal rescues were perhaps at least one too many???, the mystery of the secretive cards was wrap up too quickly and conveniently. Finally the injection of rape into the plot felt completely unnecessary and taken too lightly.

Besides these minor dislikes, to me Hoffman’ greatest achievement is to give us a character that we get to know and understand so thoroughly. The reason why Shelby comes across as such an authentic character is I think, because her transformation is gradual and hard-fought.
In the midst of so much internalized guilt and self-imposed penance, we can see that not only does she has the capacity to redeem herself, she also deserves it.

Shelby is one of those characters for whom you quickly develop a kinship and throughout the novel you can’t help but be rooting for her.

Because Faithful is a such a sad, emotional roller-coaster, this story might test your commitment as a reader. But stick with it, by the end you will be rewarded with a happy ending that feels hopeful, genuine and refreshing.

325 reviews302 followers
October 26, 2016
3.5 Stars. A beautifully written coming-of-age tale about transformation, redemption, and learning to let go. When Shelby was seventeen, she was the driver in a car accident that put her best friend Helene in an irreversible coma. Helene is trapped inside herself and subjected to an endless stream of visitors convinced that she produces miracles. Shelby blames herself for Helene's misfortune and has dedicated her life to paying her penance. "She is stopping her life, matching her breathing so that it has become a counterpart of the slow intake of air of a girl in a coma." She suffers from major depression, anxiety, survivor's guilt, and post-traumatic stress. Faithful follows the slow and painful process of Shelby rebuilding her life over a ten-year period.

In fairy tales, such things happened, you stole from someone, then were handed their fate as a punishment.

The writing is gorgeous! The prose is so effortless and I almost forgot I was reading. I loved how Hoffman added little bits of magic to everyday life through her word choices. The most magical parts of the story are when Shelby periodically receives anonymous postcards with inspiring messages like "Be something," "Feel something," and "Trust someone." The postcards are the one thing she looks forward to in life. They give her a subtle push to start living again, one step at a time. Each chapter is a transformative event in Shelby's life. Shelby's path to healing is messy! She makes maddening choices and there are many ups-and-downs in the story, but the general trajectory is towards healing. Even the bad decisions push her forward. She's determined to coast through life with no attachments, but new relationships, a love of animals, and the postcards keep her from completely drifting away. Each new experience, good or bad, makes her open up a little more.

People say if you face your worst fear the rest is easy, but those are people who are afraid of rattlesnakes or enclosed spaces, not of themselves and the horrible things they’ve done.

Shelby is wrestling with some really tough issues and her unpleasantness made the first chapter a bit of a chore. I was hooked once she meets Maravelle (Mimi) Diaz in Chapter 2. Mimi is the first person Shelby befriends that didn't know her before the accident, so it's a pivotal moment for her. One of the most memorable chapters is when Shelby babysits Mimi's children and has to be responsible for people other than herself. Her close relationship with Mimi's children forces her to look at her own mom in a more nuanced way. Shelby's evolving relationship with her mother was the most emotional part of the book for me. The moment she steps out of her emotional fog realizes how deeply and unconditionally she was loved was so moving.  "How can you hurt the one woman in the world who waits up for you at night till you’re safely home? Who puts up with your moods and your disappointments in life? Who remembers you when you were young and handsome and had faith in the world?" The deepening of the mother-daughter relationship had me sobbing!

!-------Vague assessment of my feelings towards the end, but skip the next part if you want to know absolutely nothing.--------!

This is one of those books where there's a constant stream of dramatic events. As much as I loved Mimi and her family, I thought their serious issues tipped it over into the too much category. I enjoyed the story most between the introduction of Mimi and the resolution of the postcard situation. Shelby stumbles across the identity of the postcard sender and it felt so random and anti-climatic. Even though I was happy that Shelby found happiness, I couldn't get into one of the relationships in the last quarter of the book. The connection was so sudden and there's only a passing mention of this person in an earlier conversation. I groaned when they said, "It was always you, Shelby." Romance, fate, fairy tales, etc., but I just couldn't keep my fairy tale lenses on for that. That's the second person in the book who wouldn't have had a chance with her before the accident and was fixated on her from afar. I also wish that Ben got a better ending than he did because I liked his "first" ending better!

!--------It's safe now!--------!

She read the color-coded series of Andrew Lang’s fairy tales to her mother. They became lost in an enchanted cottage with vines growing over the window. It was dark and it was quiet and they could hear each other softly breathing. Every story had the same message: what was deep inside could only be deciphered by someone who understood how easily a heart could be broken.

The people in this book are deeply flawed, but they also have goodness inside of them. The angels in Shelby's story aren't perfect people, but they were there to guide someone through their lowest moments. Faithful shows the potential for transformation in everyone. Shelby thinks the accident permanently transformed her into a monster. She's built a protective shell around herself because it's easier than letting people in, but her goodness can't be trapped inside forever. She sees life as a novel where a person carries all their past experiences with them from chapter to chapter. In order to fully heal she has to realize that while her past will always be a part of her, it doesn't have to define her. She doesn't have to stay stuck in one story. Punishing herself in Helene's name isn't fair to Helene either. She'll never be able to move forward if she continues to punish herself and carry her past guilt with her.

She thinks of the way angels arrive, when you least expect them, when the road is dark, when you’re bleeding and alone and hopeless, when you’re sleeping in a basement, convinced that no one knows you’re there.

Faithful is one of those books that I enjoyed while I was reading, but I haven't thought about since I put it down. While it wasn't particularly memorable for me, I have a feeling that Hoffman will become a go-to author for me for the times where I want to just disappear into a story. Shelby's story is extremely relatable and I could see it being a comfort to anyone who has struggled with similar issues. The themes reminded me of Cruel Beautiful World. I wish that Shelby could meet CBW's Patrick*--too bad they're fictional characters!

She thought she knew what her future would be like, but as it turns out life is far more mysterious than she would have ever imagined. What is behind you is gone, what is in front of you awaits.


I received this book for free from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. The publication date is November 1, 2016.

"[Patrick] had read that the reason there were ghosts was that the living tethered them to life, that the dead lingered not because they needed closure but because the living did. And the living needed to do only one thing for the dead: let them go. And they could never do it." - Cruel Beautiful World
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews247 followers
October 25, 2016

TW's: Suicide Attempt, Rape, Self-cutting, Substance Abuse, Depression, Cancer...
You know what, the more I think about it, the more I think this deserves two stars...
I am afraid that if I don't write this review asap it will end up with one star...
More than two months later...

Arc Provided by Simon & Schuster through Netgalley

Release Date: November 1rt

Here's the thing, I am starting to realize that Alice Hoffman's writing is like a drug to me: I am addicted to it ( why? Idk. Faulty wiring in the grey cells... depression. Who knows?), but it really messes with me. And not in a good way. Because through imagery and beautiful phrasing the author embellishes ugly scenarios. The worst is that lately, her books seem to be dominated by weak people and by their socially inapt families, and the fact that through some convoluted fairy tale scenarios, most people overcome their issues.
Unless you're killed: Alice Hoffman's characters have a high mortality rate.
Mostly due to cancer,(strangely, in some parts of the world, cancer is already seen as a chronic disease, but not in A.H's novels), but there's also drugs, and finicky parrots that suddenly decide to fly (yeah, I still haven't got over that one) leading their owners to death.

The writing as always is great... although there was some repetitions that could have been avoided.
Like Ben's last name. Over and over... and over.

But that is not the main reason why this book left me mad as a wet cat.
These are:
1) Use of trigger warning situations only for the shock value of the thing
A friend who is a comma, is bad enough. Survivor's guilt, is bad enough. So that Shelby got to say "I was fucked" over and over? And for me it wasn't used as a form of dissociation. If "that" was the idea, then the whole thing was poorly done. The whole thing becomes even more problematic, after she tells her mother what happened, and the mother doesn't do anything about it. That's right, for about two years Shelly does whatever she wants, falling into a deep depression.
And like I said the rape is never properly addressed, so yeah for me, that was really badly done.

2) At the beginning of this review I use the term "weak people". Let me explain: I am not trying to diminish the character's pain. Thing is, bad things happen in life. People die. Family die and we never get over it. That doesn't mean all of us are going to do drugs. That doesn't mean that we're going to enter a relationship like some sort of parasite. Especially if that person likes you. Most of the times we just go on with our lives.

3) Due to the synopsis, I thought this would be more friendship oriented than it ended being. Shelly and Helene are supposed to be best friends, but at beginning, the characterization that the author makes of the two of them felt so heavy handed, "good girl/party girl; good student/couldn't care less about it; reserved/kind of sluty (hopefully this word will be removed from the final story), that I was left completely baffled about what I was reading.

4) The use of a physical image associated with cancer to create pity
After the accident, Shelby shaves her head. She even says that people look at her with pity because they think she has cancer. Maybe if the author hadn't said something of the type, I couldn't care less? But she did, and from that moment on, my hatred for Shelby started growing. She wanted to blend in the background? In that case, average appearance normally does the trick.

5) Alice Hoffman and romance normally don't walk hand in hand. Obsession, insta attraction and following disappointment, yes. Thing is I had imagined many roads for Shelby and Ben. For a moment I thought, "okay, the author creates the most wonderful Ben's". Read "Practical Magic".
I was happy, or at least I was hoping for a possibility of happiness. And then the author had to choose a "new adult" approach to ruin things.

6) The new adult romance vibe
You know why I mostly can't stand new adult? It is because of the way abusive/toxic relationships are dealt.
Stalkerish vibes?
Away you go.
Deciding what is best for you? And what to ink in your body? -_-
Yeah, no.
Dark, brooding, been in prison vibe?
Hell no, Give me a Ben. Even if it started out messy.

7) The cancer card
That's right! Who cares if the story line was already fucked up as it was?
The story wouldn't be complete without someone dying from cancer... in a few pages.

8) Another death, because the death tally in this book still wasn't long enough.
Really, stop with the soap opera!

9) No magical realism. There was this supposed "angel" (stupid me was thinking something along the lines of "Turtle Moon") who ended up being a Mr. Know it all, stalkerish type.
Just no.

Truth is, had this been written by any other author ( that not one of my favourites) I probably wouldn't have even finished it.
As it is, I feel as if I've read some weird as fuck soap opera. And I hate soap operas.
Guess it is time for me and Alice Hoffman's writing to part ways.
Profile Image for Britany.
989 reviews433 followers
April 17, 2017
This book had everything in it that I love: dogs, books, and broken characters.

I have to say that I love Alice Hoffman's writing- this one didn't quite have many magical elements in it like some of her past works, but I enjoyed it immensely. Shelby Richmond gets in a terrible accident on an icy road in high school and survives. She struggles to understand why she should've been the one to walk away when her best friend Helene- did not. What follows is Shelby's quick path to destruction, random inspiring postcards arriving in her mailbox telling her to "Do Something" and then she decides to take that advice. She starts rescuing one eyed dogs being used by homeless to induce sympathy from passers-by. My heart broke wide open for Shelby- she reels into herself and makes some serious mistakes (who hasn't), she's obsessed with Chinese take-out and always choosing the wrong life.

I really enjoyed the nuances created in this novel. Hoffman does a brilliant job of weaving some memorable characters into this story. The drug dealer who changes his life around, a older single mom with 3 teenagers she's trying to keep out of trouble, a married vet, and my favorite- the rescued (kidnapped) dogs she saves. I teared up on the elliptical as I found myself rooting for this broken woman and wanted her to choose herself in the end.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advanced copy of this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,137 reviews2,748 followers
June 21, 2016

I was a huge fan of The Marriage of Opposites, so I was excited when Netgalley provided me with an advance copy of this book. Where TMOO is a story of perseverance, this is a story that starts with weakness. Shelby was the driver in a car accident that left her best friend in a coma. And as her friend is unable to live a normal life, Shelby has also stopped living hers. “Shelby is now nineteen, but she might as well be ninety. What happened to being young, to having her whole life ahead of her?” I initially struggled with Shelby; I really wanted to just shake her and force her to live her life. This is a tough beginning, but stick with it.

Hoffman has created some wonderful characters and the plot just draws you in. I had to keep remembering how young Shelby was and how much growing up she still had to do. How she had to learn to forgive herself. As hurt as she is, she is also a do-gooder and her life slowly expands because of her caring heart.

This is a warm, wonderful story. I found myself crying several times. It doesn't hurt that dogs figure prominently in her life.

Many thanks to netgalley, Simon and Schuster and Alice Hoffman for an advance copy of this book.

Profile Image for Lauri.
400 reviews95 followers
March 9, 2018
Truly amazing. This book is about love and loss, misplaced guilt, regrets and redemption. When teenaged Shelby loses control of her car one cold winter night, her friend, Helene, is critically injured. Instead of letting their daughter go, Helene's parents keep her alive for years at home. Shelby blames herself and endures her own personal hell in a mental institution and at home always blaming herself for the tragedy.

In her life, Shelby knows love and loss, makes wonderful friends, has relationships and becomes a champion of animals -- albeit in a very unorthodox manner. Read this story and learn about yourself in the process.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,079 reviews917 followers
April 16, 2017
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

I've come to realise that most novels I enjoy grab me from the very beginning. It was the case with Faithful as well.

This was my second Alice Hoffman novel, the other one was The Marriage of Opposites, which I enjoyed a great deal. Faithful couldn't be more different.
Some could call this young adult novel , it does have a young adult feel about it, but don't let that deduct from this novel's worth. One of my favourite novels in 2016 was a young adult novel (Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley).

Shelby Richmond is nineteen and ridden with survivors guilt and deep depression. Her best friend, Helene, has been comatose for two years and she's never going to come out of it. You can feel Shelby's pain and agony and you can't help but symphatise and, of course, wonder how would you cope if that were to happen to you. Shelby is pretty much a robot, who barely eats, and lives in a drug-induced stupor.
Shelby's pot supplier is a Ben, who used to go to the same college, but, unlike Shelby and Helene, he was never a member of the cool and popular clique. Ben is adrift and very shy, so Shelby just hangs out with him sometimes. Eventually, things progress to more. Some time later, the two of them move into a tiny New York apartment. Ben is kind and so supportive, yet Shelby doesn't feel the same about him, and she's not very nice to him.

Following months of drifting about, Shelby gets a minimum wage job, shelving food in a pet shop. She also makes a friend at work. When she comes across mistreated dogs, she steals them and takes them to her tiny apartment. Life and living have a way of creeping in. Shelby is still unhappy and feels unworthy of anything good. She gets tired of Ben, whom she dumps a few years later. Her next choice of partner is unfortunate, but, fortunately, she realises she made a mistake. For some years, she lives alone. Sure, she's busy volunteering at a humane shelter and with her studies. She sees her only friend and her kids often enough. Yet, Shelby is acutely lonely. So lonely she takes to chatting to all the boys who deliver her food orders. I found this part heartbreaking. But then, Shelby's kind mother gets terminal cancer. Bring out the tissues. I may have sobbed. Just a little bit. There's no one to whom she's the most important person in the world. This simple sentence just about killed me. It probably encapsulates what we all want from life - to be the most important person to someone. Most of us were lucky enough to be that person to our mothers. Some of us are even luckier to be that person to someone else that we're not blood-related to. Yet, so many people can't state that about anyone. How sad is that?

Through the years, since the accident, Shelby was getting cute cards with one word or a short message. I loved those. Shelby was looking forward to them as well.

Eventually, Shelby finds her man. An unlikely partner. Shelby is not one to judge.

Anyway, I've said too much.

Alice Hoffman is one super skilled writer. I love her writing, her way with words. This novel is beautiful and you're very likely to be touched by it. Hoffman does a wonderful job conveying guilt, grief, loneliness. Faithful wasn't perfect, but it was so damn good and it made feel a lot.

4.5 stars


I've received this novel via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publishers, Simon &Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this novel.

Cover:: 5 + stars. What a beautiful cover! I saw it in the bookshops and it just stands out.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,910 reviews248 followers
October 30, 2016
*3.5 stars. Shelby Richmond is a normal suburban teenager, growing up on Long Island, enjoying high school days with her best friend, Helene, and busy planning for college, until the cold winter night Helene talks her into driving to a party. On the way there, the car hits a patch of ice and spins out of control. Shelby comes to and finds herself stretched out on the pavement with what she thinks is an angel hovering over her. Next thing she knows she is on her way to the hospital in an ambulance and her mother is there. Shelby is devastated to learn that Helene has suffered irreversible brain damage and will remain in a coma. Shelby is smothered in a wave of remorse and guilt. Why did she survive to live another day and not her best friend? How can she face life without her? She sinks deeper and deeper into depression: dropping out of school, attempting suicide, sleeping non-stop, shaving her head. The only bright spot in her life is the occasional encouraging postcard from someone she thinks of as her 'angel'--someone who seems to know her innermost soul and what it needs.

As Shelby turns to drugs to deaden her pain, she forms an unlikely friendship with her drug dealer, Ben, a former high school classmate, and the pair decides to go to NYC to live. There she is slowly, if reluctantly, drawn back into life, suffering a few more hard knocks but finding friendship, love and even a passion for a career along the way. And her angel? Does she ever learn his identity? Wait and see!

This is the second book by Hoffman that I've read and I find I thoroughly enjoy her smooth-flowing style of writing. She makes it look incredibly easy. Her characters are believable if damaged human beings, who are resilient and worthy of getting to know better. All of this kept me rapidly turning pages to see what would happen next and rooting whole-heartedly for Shelby to turn her life around.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read an arc of this novel.

PS: I was informed today that I've won a hardcover copy of this book through a goodreads giveaway. Many thanks to Simon & Schuster, a great publishing firm!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews395 followers
May 28, 2017
About 15 minutes into this audio book, I stopped the narration and double-checked that I had downloaded the correct book. "Faithful" was nothing at all like my last experience with Alice Hoffman -- The Marriage of Opposites, with its complexity and lyrical language. I thought for sure I had mistakenly clicked on the latest YA release. My screen confirmed that, indeed, this was Hoffman and that "Faithful" was a very different book than "Opposites."

Once I let go of my expectations for what this book was "supposed" to be, I found that I enjoyed and appreciated it. In this novel, a teen-aged Shelby is behind the wheel when a car accident leaves her best friend bedridden in a coma. We see Shelby's downward spiral into self-destruction and despair as a result of depression and survivor's guilt. Hoffman aptly captures not only Shelby's emotions, but the those of her parents as they watch their daughter punish herself for the accident.

While this book is not officially a YA novel, it definitely had that sort of feel about it, and those who don't care for that genre will likely not enjoy this book.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. While I was provided with a galley I chose to listen to an audio version, which was excellent.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,478 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.