June 2, 2007 archive

Keeping Faith – Book Review

“The issue in this custody hearing is where the best home is for Faith, ma’am. With all due respect, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for God.” -From Keeping Faith, page 282-

Jodi Picoult is known for writing controversial books (her latest effort – Nineteen Minutes – has already faced bans and challenges since its publication this year), and Keeping Faith is no different. When Mariah White walks in on her husband cheating with another woman (with her seven year old daughter Faith in tow), she can no longer delude herself that she has a perfect marriage. Shortly after this momentous event, Faith begins to see and talk to her “guard” who we later learn is God. Not only does the little girl talk to God, she begins healing others and develops stigmata. As the novel progresses, and Mariah and her now ex-husband feel their way through a contentious custody battle, the characters are all forced to deal with their own beliefs about God and faith.

Like all of Picoult’s novels, this one kept me turning the pages. It is filled with complex characters who are not always what they seem. The idea of faith, religion and our belief systems are all explored with a flare for storytelling that I’ve come to expect from Picoult. There is also an underlying theme of what it means to be a parent, and more specifically what it means to be both a mother and a daughter.

Mariah (Faith’s mother) builds doll houses for a living – she creates tiny furniture and floor coverings and includes the smallest details in her work, but leaves out the people. Using this framework, Picoult seamlessly weaves together the concept of the mother-daughter relationship and how it connects back to God.

She can see the tiny bathroom fixtures and the knotty-pine floors in the bedrooms and the kitchen cabinet that is still ajar. She can see into the most private parts of this house without even having to try. This is what it’s like, she thinks, to be God. She considers this for a moment, thinking of all the young girls who play so easily at being a divine being – able to put their doll-house families through their paces. Mariah glances up at the ceiling and wonders if God is doing the same thing to her and Faith.

And then:

So she grew up to build houses without dolls, places where furniture was bolted down and glued into position, homes where nothing was left to chance. And yet, Mariah realizes that she still didn’t make a clean escape. Manipulation, responsibility, watchfulness. It is not so different, really, from being a mother.

-From Keeping Faith, pages 236-237-

This book held me spellbound. It is compulsively readable and will make readers re-think their beliefs and wonder at the strength of their faith.

Highly recommended.

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