Monday, January 30, 2012
Faith - by Jennifer Haigh
The Catholic Church faced scandal in 2002 when news broke that the Boston Archdiocese had long-time knowlege of child sexual abuse, by priests, and had covered it up by simply been moving accused priests from one parish to another after counseling. Haigh's novel tells the story of how one family copes with the aftermath when one of their own is among the accused. The story is narrated by Sheila McGann, half-sister of Father Arthur "Art" Breen, who is accused of inappropriate contact with a young boy, Aidan. Shelia tells how the news affects everyone in their family, and causes long-held family secrets to be revealed.
When Art is placed on indefinite leave from the Church he finds some solace in the local public library where goes daily to read the newspapers. After his first visit he decides to skip the local news, where he would, likely, have often found his own picture, in favor of international media. He apparently is also a library card holder as we learn that he checked out a copy of one of his favorite books Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. He also patronizes the school library at Sacred Heart to check out books to read with Aidan. Shelia points out that two of these books, Homer Price and The Red Balloon were ones she remembers reading as a child and points out that "[p]ariochial school libraries are notoriously underfunded. In thirty years their catalogs change hardly at all." Of course this is not only an issue in parochial schools. Alas, there are still too many people who think that once a library is full of books it needs no additional funding for materials.
Art is not the only library user in the story. Shelia's godmother, Clare checks out books on codepedency that she feels will be useful to Shelia's mother (Mary), mostly as a retailiation measure against Mary's helpful magazine clippings about self improvement.
I learned a bit about the Catholic Church, such as the difference between "solemn promises" and "vows". It was a good story that read like a memoir. It was sometimes hard to keep in mind that it was fiction, especially since it was based on recent history.