FAITHFUL, BY ALICE HOFFMAN

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On a February night, when road conditions were challenging, Shelby Richmond and Helene Boyd were in an accident that left Helene in a coma and Shelby broken in spirit. They were only seventeen when it happened, with their lives ahead of them. Then everything changed.

Shelby spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, and more time afterwards in her family’s basement. She shaved her head and completely turned inward.

Faithful is the magical story of Shelby’s journey back to herself and to feeling worthy of life and love.

From Huntington, on Long Island, to New York City, we follow her as she progresses. Slowly. Her friend, Ben Mink, helps her by being there for her, but when she starts to move on, to find some independence, that chapter in her life is over.

Her love for animals takes her from a pet store job, to working in an animal shelter…and then to college. Her ultimate goal: veterinary medicine. Finally, and slowly, there are friendships…and Shelby begins to shed the tough girl persona, even letting her hair grow out again.

Through the years, somebody is sending Shelby little postcards anonymously, with a short message on each one. The first one says “say something,” and the next one issues the challenge: “do something.”

They all seem to be leading Shelby toward something, and by the time she finds out who is sending them, the last one has said “trust someone.”

I loved the serendipitous moments that felt so magical, as if someone was watching over her. For a time, Shelby believed the postcard writer to be an angel. When she finally discovered who had been guiding her and why, the final piece to the puzzle led to a feeling of closure. And comfort. I loved the characters, and I especially enjoyed seeing Shelby’s growth, and how she finally let herself be happy. A wonderful 5 star read.

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***My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE, BY RANDY SUSAN MEYERS

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Ben and Maddy have been married for many years, and sometimes they seem to be going through the motions. Between his job at the public defender’s office and hers as a social worker, they are on automatic pilot.

There is one recurring theme in their relationship: Ben’s quick temper that sometimes seems to erupt with no warning. His impatience, his yelling, and the way he seems to be someone she doesn’t even know…these features to his personality have Maddy questioning everything about her life.

Their three children are showing the signs of the strain between them. Emma, 15, is increasingly out of control, and the younger two, Gracie and Caleb, are on the verge of following suit.

Then on a rainy day on a Boston freeway, as Ben rushes, after reluctantly picking up a stranded Maddy, there is a horrific accident. And yes, a tailgater is partially responsible, but Ben was driving too fast and too angrily…and now Maddy lies in a coma.

What will become of their family now?

The story is narrated by Ben, Emma, and Maddy.

It is a tale of Before and After, and it is a sad reminder of how driving while enraged can be just as devastating as driving while intoxicated. And Ben, who I would characterize as a Rage-a-holic, needs serious treatment. In many ways, his personality resembles that of a certain type of addict that those in the program call “King Baby.” Everything is all about him and his needs, and his rage is his very infantile reaction to not getting what he wants when he wants it.

I liked Maddy and empathized with her struggle as she tried to recover from a serious brain injury. Emma was struggling and carrying too much responsibility for a young girl, and even though other family members stepped up, there was really nobody there for Maddy. Ben’s efforts were almost pointless, coming as they did with his resentments on full view and delivered with heavy sighs.

A story that could have taken an easy way out, Accidents of Marriage: A Novel did not tie up all the issues with a pretty bow at the end, but I was left hoping that Maddy would make the choices that were right for her and for the children. Ben, on the other hand, was so unlikeable that I did not really care what happened to him. Wonderful read recommended for those who enjoy family drama and dysfunctional relationships. 5.0 stars.