Sunday, December 13, 2009

Keeping Faith

My students drew me to Jodi Picoult. They read every book of hers, and they keep reading, and reading, and reading. Now, it's my turn to read.

The first book I could get my hands on (since they can be so scarce) was Keeping Faith. Since it's about religion, it really wouldn't have been my first choice, but it was the only choice. For her first book, I'd say it was pretty good. It must be because now I'm reading a second book of hers: The Tenth Circle.

Now that I'm in the middle of her second book, I can see patterns in her books. Each book takes on a controversial topic that she wants us to think about. They make us consider our morals and our stances on such topics. Keeping Faith is about religion; The Tenth Circle is about rape. When I'm finished, I will pick up The Pact which is about suicide. I kind of like this pattern she's got going. I think it's pretty smart.

Keeping Faith sounded a little tacky, but Picoult did it in an alright way. Mariah White is a mother who is bored with her life, and her husband is bored with her. She walks in on him having an affair which causes them to separate. Amidst this familial struggle, Faith "starts talking to God." She calls God her "guard" and refers to her as a woman. At first this causes trouble just with Mariah and her mother, but eventually it catches the attention of the media.

Faith engages in such activities as reviving her dead grandmother, curing an autistic man for a short period of time, curing a baby with AIDS, performing stigmata on her hands similar to Jesus's wounds, and telling personal information that she would have no way of knowing. It's a little out there, but you have to have "faith."

Two side plots go on in the meantime. First, Ian Fletcher, an atheist TV host whose job is to discredit acts of God to prove his point, seeks out to bring down Faith White as his next episode. He comes to the town to point out her flaws, but for some reason, he can't find any. He slowly gets close to the family and closer with the Mariah. It's easy to predict that these two seemily opposite people fall in love.

Next, Mariah's husband who cheated on her, Colin, sues for custudy. A custody battle in court then ensues. They peg Mariah as unstable from her earlier suicide attempt (after Colin's first affair) and with a made-up psychological disorder that Mariah has. The court scene went on for a BIT longer than I would have liked, but I think all of the evidence presented was crucial to the plot. The succession of events also was significant towards the end result.

During the trial, Faith falls deathly ill. She has been sentenced away from her mother with a restraining order, but she gets worse and worse as she is away from her mother. But, Mariah can't keep herself away. She goes to the hospital despite the order, and for whatever reason, Faith goes from critical condition to being fine to leave. This is Faith's last act of God to prove that she belongs with her mother.

The book ends ambiguously. It ends with Faith wondering where her God is, calling out to her. But, we don't know if she has gone from her life completlely or if she will always be there. I like that there is no closure. I think it adds more to the story. But, people do get closure with the romance since Ian and Mariah seem to hook up in the end.

I can see why so many women connect with this book. These characters seem so real because they have such honest, true flaws--flaws that we all might face. I think women connect with these characters, male and female, because they might reflect parts of themselves or others they know. I just think it's good writing. She develops an in-depth plot that pans out into so many different avenues that I never predicted. She connects earlier plots and shows such character development among characters. I'm just astonished.

I would recommend Picoult books to readers, but I don't need to. She already has such a VAST audience that has read all of her books. I am the one behind. But, this is my way of giving approval. I like it. I'm going to read more.

So what do you think of Keeping Faith?