Author: Jennifer Haigh
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Boston / Families / Catholic Church / Priest Abuse / Irish-Americans
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (1/17/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes -- I inhaled this book.
One-sentence summary: A woman reflects on her childhood, her family, and her brother, a Catholic priest, when he's accused of sexual abuse during Boston's 2002 abuse scandal.
Do I like the cover?: Eh -- I'm not wild about it. I vastly prefer the hardcover design which fits the familial theme of the story.
First line: Here is a story my mother has never told me.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy or borrow -- this is a WOW! book.
Why did I get this book?: After so many book bloggers I like raved about it, I knew I had to give it a try, despite the discomforting topic. I'm a sucker for anything set in Boston.
Review: Everything you've heard about this book is true. It's beautifully written, complicated, conflicting, confusing, emotional, mesmerizing, and captivating.
I avoided this when it first came out because I usually can't stomach any kind of child abuse stuff, especially sexual abuse. Having grown up Catholic, and been in Boston during the abuse scandal, it still felt too close to home. But after seeing so many swoon-y reviews of this, I was curious -- and my curiosity was rewarded.
From the first page, with the bitterly poignant opening scene, I was hooked. There's a sizzling tension to the story -- did Sheila's brother molest one of his parishioners? -- and I literally couldn't put this book down. I inhaled the story.
Haigh's strength -- and the reason this story is so emotionally engrossing, I think -- is her characters and writing. This fractured Catholic family isn't overly dramatic or lurid. They felt authentic and real. (Having grown up Catholic in an Irish family, it was uncomfortably familiar at times!) Haigh has some of the loveliest passages in her novels, poetic and pretty, simple and breathtaking.
I'm being purposely vague about the plot because the unfolding story is worth it. Whether you're familiar with the Boston clergy scandal or not, consider this novel -- despite the horrifying topic, the story is beautifully done. Ultimately, this is a novel about family, about love and growing up, about self-worth, and the faith one has in each other, in family, and in life. A satisfying read.
*** *** ***
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