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Keeping Faith - Jodi Picoult

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Author: Jodi Picoult / Genre: Fiction

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    13 Reviews
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      23.12.2013 09:09
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      Nice read

      I really enjoy reading Jodi Picoult's books but I think this 1999 published book had taken a back seat as it had a religious vent to it. However, I still wanted to read it so picked it up a few weeks ago.

      A bit about
      The book begins with a happy couple, Mariah and Colin White and their seven year old daughter Faith. Life's pretty good and Maria reflects on how lucky she is to have Colin, the Soccer star at school as her husband. Then their world comes tumbling down when they come home early to find Colin in bed with another woman. The truth begins to spill out as Mariah's story unfolds. Colin's not been unfaithful for the first time and it has sent Mariah in to a depression. Then Faith starts seeing and talking to God. Miracles start to happen. The question is whether Mariah is a fit mother and the typical Picoult court custody case ensues.

      Characters
      The book follows a format that I am familiar with in Picoult's novels. The scenario is painted and then the whole book surges towards a court date looming whilst things happen in between to make you guess who will win at court. Lawyers are also included, adding their spin to the tale which make it a very informed read. In addition to the three main characters, there is also Millie, Mariah's mother. A very matriarchal figure, she is certain in her thinking and only wants to protect Mariah and Faith. She is disapproving of Colin and his attitude towards marriage and wants him out of their lives. A number of religious figureheads also feature in the book from Jewish and Catholic faiths. They are here to investigate Faith's visions and Mariah's attitude to them in her home is very gracious for a non believer. Finally the TV star atheist, Ian Fletcher - sounds like a bit of a Derek Accorah figure to me! He is out to prove Faith doesn't really see God but he is somewhat distracted by her mother...

      Straightforward
      The vague story telling more or less follows in real time so it's easy to follow. Her latter novels tend to jump around a little and tell the story from more than one character's viewpoint which makes the story more technically challenging and clever but can be a bit confusing so this on is a straightforward one!

      My thoughts
      I liked the book, it really did get too much in to the God stuff but it did ask the question "Is God a woman?" which was a unique angle! The little girl is a little bit strange and one wonders whether she is attention seeking at times but regardless of that she has a lot to deal with in life so the Guard / God / friend provides some distraction for her. The miracles were harder to believe, as was the stigmata issue. I think it opened up a lot to think about and that is what I like in a good book so I can only really recommend this for reading if you like Picoult already you'll probably find this OK, not her best but early writing tends to be less technical in her earlier novels.

      PS. I did chuckle at an emergency moment when one of the characters in the book rushed to find a pay phone to make a call. Were we really that dependent in 1999???

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      21.11.2011 12:20
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      This is definately a book that i would recommend.

      I had read several of Jodi Picoult's books before I read this one and I have really enjoyed each one that I have read. I wasn't sure what I was going to think of this book as this one has a religious theme to it but I thought I would give it a go and was surprised that I couldn't put it down.

      This book is about Mariah White and her little girl Faith who starts to see and speak to God. People close to Faith don't believe this is happening but then she starts to perform miracles which cannot be explained. Although many people start to believe her one TV atheist Ian Fletcher is going to prove she is just making this up as a way of comforting herself from her parents divorce. She also causes issues in the church as they dont believe that a jewish girl could possibly be able to talk to God.

      This is a great book that i would read again.

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        22.07.2010 16:00
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        Don't read this. Or Moby Dick, for that matter.

        Without sounding all arsey, normally I read quite good books. That sounds a bit pompous, but it's not like I'm ploughing my way through a Dickens every other day. I just like to read reasonably worthy works of fiction. I hate chick lit, therefore. However, when I'm sick, all the defences come down and I just want to read something that's entertaining enough to put me to sleep without me having to think too much. All of which goes some way to explaining why I read Jodi Picoult: I was really, really sick and I didn't have the energy to fight her off.


        To be completely fair, I shouldn't really describe Jodi Picoult as 'chick lit'. She's about one step up from that. She has a massive following, particularly in America, and has established a huge fanbase here in recent years. Her books (from what I gather, I've only read the one) tend to deal with subjects concerning family, relationships and forces that might undermine them. The ties that bind, in short.


        The main protagonists of 'Keeping Faith' are Faith, a seven year old Jewish girl, and Mariah, her mother. The novel focuses on the events following Mariah and Faith's discovery of Colin's (father and husband) affair. The reader is told that this is not the first of Colin's affairs, and that after discovering a similar indiscretion seven years earlier Mariah had a nervous breakdown and was committed by her husband to a mental institution. This time Colin leaves to set up home with the mistress and instigates divorce proceedings. So far, so Oprah bookclub.
        Mariah copes by having an initial minor breakdown and then pulling herself together. Faith copes by seeing God. Obviously. Let's just say for the record, though, that my parents got divorced and I never once saw God. Not even a wee bit. I got 2 sets of presents that Christmas, so it was all right, but I feel a bit hard done by now.


        Anyway, Faith begins talking to someone. Someone invisible. Convinced the child is seeing an imaginary friend her mother takes her off to psychotherapy to get to the root of it. At first the psychotherapist assumes Faith has invented a friend to give her emotional support whom she refers to as her 'guard' and then realises that it's something entirely more celestial. Accordingly, she gives her anti-psychotic drugs, which is what you should do when people start talking to God (not priests, though. Or rabbis. They're allowed). As Richard Ashcroft from the Verve could have told them, the drugs don't work. Faith not only continues to commune with God but she goes on to perform some really quite impressive miracles and develops stigmata.


        Naturally, all of this incites the interest of the Catholic church, some mentals, a rabbi or two and all the local press. Most importantly, it attracts Ian Fletcher, a dashing professional atheist who is on a mission to disprove religious miracles through the medium of science.


        Having witnessed the media scrum surrounding Faith, her father decides that the child's quality of life has diminished and, moreover, that she may be in very real physical danger. He puts in motion a custody battle which is the real heart of the story.


        Ok, so that's an outline of the plot dealt with. It is quite an unusual and captivating premise, especially for this kind of literature, and I really wanted it to live up to my expectations, but it absolutely didn't.


        Firstly, and it's a minor thing, but by Christ did the character names piss me off. Apart from Faith and Mariah White there's a Rabbi Weissman who turns out to be quite sensible, a Rabbi Daniel Solomon, who, believe it or not, has the wisdom of, well, Solomon. Also, there's a Father Rampini, which Faith once mistakenly pronounces as 'Father Rampenis'. He's a forceful and demanding presence sent by the Catholic Church to investigate Faith's claims. My problem here is that Jodi Picoult doesn't seem to credit her readership with any intelligence. If you can draw a character accurately as an author we'll be able to work out whether we should like them or not.


        Along similar lines, the narrative voice is not constant, but flits between the first and third person. This is evidently to ensure the reader's understanding of, and sympathy with Mariah, but it simply doesn't happen. She remains, like the majority of characters in the novel, bland and uninspiring. The change of narrative voice is just unsettling and annoying.


        The main problem I had with the book was that although the story was compelling (I read it in a day) I didn't find that it had been resolved appropriately. As the book progressed, Faith's visions, miracles and stigmata became secondary to the plot, which became increasingly more and more focussed around the disintegration of this small family unit; how the dynamics of the various relationships shifted in response to a series of incredibly stressful events and if Mariah White would find the strength to go from self-doubting wreck to confident and worthy mother. The ending to this particular strand of the plot was predictable and satisfactory, but Faith's visions, miracles and stigmata are only perfunctorily addressed on the very last page.


        The concepts of Munchausen by Proxy (where a person deliberately harms another in order to gain attention for themself) and somatoform disorders (where an individual experiences stress or emotional disorders as a physical malaise) are used by Picoult to explain Faith's symptoms. However, these explanations when used by opposing sides in the custody battle are found to be insufficient to explain stigmata wounds in a seven year old Jewish girl. Picoult makes quite clear that it is impossible for Faith to be inflicting these wounds upon herself. The only conclusion for the reader, then, is that Faith truly has seen God. However, the ending (without giving too much away) implies that this is not the case.


        Some books are well enough written that their endings can be left vague; the author has built up enough of a plot for the reader to fill in the blanks, as it were. This is not the case for 'Keeping Faith'. Stigmata, miracles and visions are too intriguing a concept for a reader to accept that their presence could have been caused either by God or by the mind of a seven year old girl. Neither, the book makes clear, is possible, and in a novel that relies so heavily on the conflict between absolute belief and absolute cynicism not to give a sound explanation is weak.


        I wouldn't recommend this book, not because it's not the style of literature that I normally read, but because the author could have done so much more with what is a genuinely intriguing concept and also because the characterisation and ending are frustrating.

        468 pages
        Publisher: Hodder
        ISBN: 978-0-340-83805-1
        Price: £6.99

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          17.02.2010 12:53
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          Jodi Picoult has been a long term favourite author of mine. I find that in each of her novels there is rarely a moment where nothing is happening and although they usually feature some sort of crime where the police have to be involved the ones which don't are just as good. You can tell that a good deal of research goes into her work which I think other authors don't always do. Leaving out details which might make all the difference.

          When Maria discovers her husband in bed with another woman it shatters her stable lifestyle, what makes it worse however is that their seven year old daughter also witnesses it. When Faith begins to have an imaginary friend it seems to be something which isn't too important, a way of dealing with what she has seen. However things seem to go amiss when she claims that it is God who she is spending time with. When she starts to perform miraculous healings and bringing people back to life it creates a media frenzy. Camping outside their house to catch a glimpse of this very special little girl. Some people however are very dubious. Ian Fletcher is certain that it is something to do with the Mother as if she doesn't have enough to deal with when her ex husband also believes that this is the case, suing her for custody.

          Mariah wasn't a character I took to very well. She seemed to panic too much in different situations and unable to cope with what is happening. Something which is possibly quite necessary when her young daughter is involved. I can understand that she is to be portrayed as a slightly troubled woman especially concerning how her life has completely changed thanks to her husband. She is someone who I think is too rash in her actions and this can cause lots of problems.

          Ian Fletcher is a completely different kettle of fish. He is probably one of the more interesting characters and is very firm in his beliefs. Whilst for the majority of the time I found him a somewhat likeable person I felt that his actions later on are somewhat predictable. There was clearly something in his past which he wanted hidden and that it would have some sort of impact on his views of Mariah and Faith.

          Although the main character has to be Faith I felt as though it was more centred on Mariah. It made me smile to read that in her eyes her God is a female. Differing from the usual idea that he is an old man with a long grey beard.

          Overall I didn't think this was Jodi Picoult's strongest book. It seemed to stop and start in places and lacked enough momentum to make it easy to read. Maybe it was because it also lacked the usual court cases which I'm used to and featured largely on family life. Relationships with different people rather than tracking down DNA samples. I felt that the ending was a bit of a letdown and didn't really finish the story off properly. I wanted to know a lot more than I was given but it just ground to a halt.

          Although I am non religious I still found it had some interesting views running throughout it although it's highly unlikely that I will read it again. If you haven't read a Jodi Picoult book before then I wouldn't advise you to start off with this one. It's an average read and didn't keep me as captivated as I usually am with her novels.
          You can buy this on Amazon for £4.96.

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            07.02.2010 22:12
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            Amazing book

            Some of you who have read my reviews before probably know that I am a big Jodi Picoult fan. Not only do her books keep you on the edge of your seat, she also makes you feel strong emotions towards the characters in her stories. There is no doubt in my mind of how much Picoult researches the topics of her novels. I can't quite understand how she can publish books so quickly, and have time to research the topic that she wants to write about, but she does it, and she does it well. If you have read any of her books before then you understand what I mean, but for those of you who have never picked up a Picoult book, you really don't know what a brilliant author you are missing out on.

            In my opinion, when authors publish book after book within short periods of time, their novels tend to be somewhat repetitive or 'sloppy'. By 'sloppy' I mean that I am given the impression that the author just wants to get the book over and done with, so they can move onto the next one. But after reading Picoult's books, I feel like she doesn't quite want the story to come to an end and this comes across in her writing. I also feel that she wants us to continue thinking about the story long after we have read it, and this is certainly the case with Keeping Faith.

            The title itself 'Keeping Faith' intends two meanings, which become noticed quite early on in the story, Faith by name, and faith by religion.

            ~The Storyline~
            Mariah and Colin White are (supposedly) a happily married couple, and have a 7year old daughter together called Faith. Mariah and Faith's worlds are turned upside down when they walk into their home one day and catch Colin with another woman. This is not his first affair. Seven years ago, the same thing happened. At that time, Mariah was unable to try and keep her head above water and fell into depression. Instead of Colin trying to help his wife 'get better' he has her institutionalised against Mariah's, and her mother's will. What Colin didn't know was that Mariah had fallen pregnant with their child. This time round, Mariah is determined to keep going, not only for herself, but for her daughter as well.

            But Faith starts to feel slightly isolated and believes that it is her fault that her mummy and daddy are no longer together. As with many children, Faith develops an imaginary friend. However, this is no ordinary imaginary friend. Faith believes that not only is she talking to God, but God is talking to her. Coupled with that, Faith corrects Mariah one day that God is a female not a male. This may come as a shock to many parents, but none more so than Mariah .... Faith is a Jew, and it goes against religion that a little Jewish girl would be communicating with a female God.

            Mariah sends Faith to Psychologists, scared stiff that her daughter has become psychotic. However, after the Psychologists reports that Faith is not experiencing any other signs of being psychotic, other than talking to God, Mariah tries to understand what Faith is experiencing. That is until Faith is believed to have performed a miracle and bought her Grandmother back to life after having a heart attack and being clinically dead for over an hour. Mariah has to face the truth that maybe Faith is not lying, maybe some higher power is communicating with her daughter.

            Not long after this 'miracle', Faith develops bleeding of her hands. After being rushed to hospital, the doctors can find no signs of trauma to her hands, and fails to provide an answer as to why there are holes going straight through Faith's hands with no sign of trauma at all. The belief then, is that Faith has developed stigmata.

            The media get wind of what has been happening to, and around, Faith, and like the vultures they are, they pounce, setting up camp on the lawn of Mariah and Faith's house (Colin has moved out to marry and live with his 'mistress'). After reporting on the miracle of her Grandmother's resurrection, sick and disabled people join the frenzy at the house. Mariah, like any other mother, tries to protect Faith from the media frenzy, but this may have been her downfall.

            After running off to Las Vegas and marrying his mistress, Colin settles down to watch TV, only to find that every news stations is talking about Faith, her stigmata, and the supposed miracles that Faith has performed. Colin runs back to the family home, and after speaking to Mariah, comes to the conclusion that there is more to the story than meets the eye, and files for full custody of their daughter.

            A court case is then presented to Mariah, on the grounds that she is physically and mentally hurting her own child. The custody battle begins ....

            ~My opinion~
            I don't want to tell you anymore as I don't want to ruin the story for you, but this book is very, very compelling, and I found it really hard to put the book down! I actually stayed awake until 3am to finish this book last night. At the time, I thought it was worth it but I'm very tired now!

            This book will definitely be in my thoughts for days to come, and not only feeling sympathy for Faith, but also Mariah. As a mother, I'm not sure how I would deal with a situation like this, but I'd like to think that no matter what I did, my son's dad would be willing to stand by me. It must be awful for your partner to accuse you, in a court of law, of harming your own child. Completely unthinkable.

            I was a bit wary of reading the book at first, as I thought it was going to be very religious and perhaps have a slight preacher feel to it, but it didn't at all. Obviously there are some religious aspects in the book, otherwise the story wouldn't be the story! (Hope that makes sense!) I didn't at any time, feel like I was being pushed into reading ongoing, and monotonous religious quotes, and felt that there was just enough religious aspect to the book to be acceptable for me as an atheist.

            I think that this is, yet again, another brilliant book by Picoult, and written in a very clever way, with a lot of research behind it. I believe that Picoult must have spend hours trying to understand Catholicism and Judaism, in order to tell us the story, and this is apparent throughout the novel.

            I would strongly recommend this book to anyone. If you have never read Jodi Picoult, then I think this would be the perfect novel to start with. If you're a Picoult fan, then you have probably read this one already, but if you haven't, get a move on because its amazing!

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              11.01.2010 09:00
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              A lovely book - challenging and stimulating in all the right places!

              I am new to Jodie Picoult, having been directed to her over the christmas break, and I therefore treated myself to several of her books. From the moment I opened "Keeping Faith" - so much so that I stayed up one night until nearly 1am just to finish it!

              Without trying to spoil the story for you, the basic premise is that we have a central character - Mariah White - who has been cheated on by her husband once and tried to committ suicide. Now, seven years on, she walks in and finds her husband with another woman again - enough to send anyone off the deep end!

              After her husband files for divorce her daughter, Faith, starts to talk to an imaginary friend - not that unusual you say - until a psychotherapist suggest that Faith is talking to God who is appearing to the little girl as a vision.

              And so the story starts to gather pace with the catholic church becoming involved (Mariah is Jewish so there is a nice piece of inter faith dialogue) and with Mariah's ex husband claiming that she is an unfit mother and suing for custody.

              Along the way there is romance, legal dramas a plenty in the courtroom and medical know how thrown around the place.

              This is a wonderful reading - gripping and moving in equal quantities and an ending that left me thinking long after I finished. If this is a good example of Jodie Picoult's work then I have just become another fan!

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                01.01.2010 19:43
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                Worth a read

                It's hard to review this book without wanting to give your opinion on the subject which I cannot do without ruining the book for you. As usual this is another fantastic read on another contrivercial subject by Picoult.

                I found this one in particular quite an inpiring and heartwarming story as it is about a little girl who can perform miracles and talk to god. It may sound a bit 'out there' but it really isn't unbelievable when you are actually reading it, that's what makes it so special.

                Keeping Faith is basically a custody battle with the courts as they think the girl may be being harmed by her mother and fed lies in order to believe that she is being spoken to by god but that is not the case at all. You will warm to certain characters and detest others but that's all the signs of a good book! This will keep you gripped all the way through as the story is very interesting and Jodi Picoult has done exceptionally well in portraying this contravertial subject. There is also some history elements in there that may teach you a thing or two.

                Quite different from Picoult's other subjects, this is a magical and gripping read as the story unfolds. A true pleasure to read as are her other novels.

                4/5 Dooyoo stars from me!

                Thanks for reading

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                  11.12.2009 09:02
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                  A book about belief

                  This is a book that makes the reader think about miracles.

                  It has a very 'Jodi Picoult' title in that she usually fully exploits a double meaning. Until you read the book, a reader might think that the book is solely about not losing heart. Once you are truly deep inside the book, it is clear that it is also about not losing custody of a child called Faith.

                  Plot
                  ----

                  The narrative begins when Mariah, the mother of a seven year old Faith, returns home unexpectedly, with her daughter, and finds her husband entertaining a naked woman in their house. This signals the end of her relationship with her husband who has also been unfaithful in the past. Mariah suffers from reactive depression and this propels her into gloom, as it did eight years previously, just before the birth of her daughter on the first discovery of her husband's infidelity. Faith seems to cope with the trauma of parental separation by having an imaginary friend.


                  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Faith's friend is not a run-of-th-mill kid's creation; it is God. God is also female. Miracles begin to happen when Faith is around. These miracles seem to have no logical explanation.

                  Because of word spreading quickly about the miracles, a media circus and vigil of the faithful begins to dog their lives. When Faith's father learns of this, he begins legal proceedings to obtain full custody of his daughter - who he hopes will live with his mistress and the baby that they are expecting. Mariah is desperate not to lose Faith (or faith)!

                  Characters
                  --------------

                  Maraiah is a character that many women can identify with. She is a woman who is struggling with the harsh realities of a complex and frantic life, trying to prove herself continually and be a good parent to her precious daughter - despite the terrible circumstances she finds herself in. She struggles with mental health and self esteem issues - as many women do - and is judged fairly mercilessly for these - as many women are. She is therefore quite an engaging character. I did not like the fact that she made 'doll houses' for a living. I found this to be quite a creepy and unrealistic occupation for an 'everywoman' type character. It reminded me of the murderer in 'Lovely Bones' who also made 'doll houses'. Perhaps this is an American obsession.

                  There was not much commercial activity concerning her business in the book either - so her craft seemed rather superficial. It was as though she needed a work-from-home occupation - and making 'doll houses' would suffice. A long term sick break from a regular job would have been more realistic!

                  Faith is a rather aloof character to the reader. I think she has to be this way for the story to retain momentum. It is a device whereby the reader is kept at arm's length so that we are never too close to examine her miracle-performing abilities and make a judgement on whether we believe or not. This is a shame because we know that her family seem to love her dearly - but we don't get to find out much about her for ourselves. At the very end of the book, Faith is allowed to open up to the reader a little but by this point, it is a somewhat frustrating experience.

                  Other characters in the book such as Mariah's mother and Faith's grandmother, Mariah's husband and an athiest evangelist are all very satisfactory characters.

                  Themes
                  ---------

                  Belief is certainly a big theme in this book. We are led to believe that the miracles are genuine. I enjoy this aspect of Picoult's work because it uses the medium of a book fully in terms of exploiting the reader's imagination. Art is the very form where miracles can take place simply because it is so different from mundane, logical everyday life. If a miracle happens in fiction - then it is as believable as it is written. There is much doubt about the genuine mature of the miracles from the media - but we - as readers are privvy to the true domestic life - and we know that there is no fakery. However, I felt that Picoult's ending muddied up the idea of the fantasy-miracle and this left me rather disappointed. I felt that fantasy experience was a dinghy that was very bouyant - and then the plug was very suddenly pulled at the end. Was this a device to manipulate the reader? Maybe - but I felt it was a bit cheap.

                  Mental illness is also a theme that is a big one in this book. It dealt with the fact that people are judged severely for struggling with mental health issues - and women especially so. This is shown to be unfair - as many of the causes of these issues are terrible and completely understandable; life is not easy for many people - and having an untrustworthy spouse can be a devastating experience when so much of your life is tied up together. I can completely understand this idea - and I'm sure many others can too. This may be what makes it such a successful read.

                  Religion and the strange practices, beliefs and hypocracies pertaining to it is another strong theme in the book. There are many characters with a religious viewpoint in the novel rubbing shoulders together. Ultimately, the reader must question where they are in this issue - especially as the miracles are so genuine. I enjoed this strange collection of religious stances all together. It was the religious 'circus'.

                  To Conclude
                  ---------------

                  I enjoyed reading this book right until the very end - which I thought was unsatisfactory and a bit 'cheap'. This made the vast majority of reading the book a valuable experience - but it poses the question of: 'if an ending is at odds with the narrative does this mean that the book is a bad one?' I think the ending does de-value the book - but I did find much that was worthwhile. I think this one is a question for the individual reader.

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                    12.09.2009 18:43
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                    opens your mind!

                    Keeping Faith is about a a young girl called Faith who confides with an imaginary friend. However when strange incidents start occuring and Faith appears to be performing miracles people suggest she may be seeing God and it sprials into a media frenzy. The book focuses on Faith and her mother Mariah and the events that occur over a vey strange situation.

                    Jodi Picoult is never one to shy away from a controversial subject and this is no different. The book delves into religion and atheism giving the reader a brilliant insight to both sides of the argument. Its a very well written book, however the story line is strange and its difficult to know how to take it or what to believe. I think this is what Jodi was hoping for, trying to make the reader question their beliefs. She does this so well, and throughout the book your not quite sure how its going to end.

                    I personally didnt think it was one of her best books, I felt the storyline was so different from her other works and although she dealt with the controversial subject well, it was sometimes confusing as to what to believe. If I could I would give 3.5 stars but I cant so I will round it up!

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                    06.03.2009 18:11
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                    not too heavy....just right!

                    If you are a huge fan of jodi picoult, then book really will not disappoint.

                    The story is based around a little girl who confides in her imaginary friend. When family and friends hear her talking and miracles start occuring, it unfolds that perhaps faith is talking to God...and then the media find out about this extraordinary little girl and persue her and her family.

                    Of course this wouldn't be a Jodi Picoult book if there was only one story-there are others tangled in the web that keep the reader turning the pages....but I won't get too detailed for fear of ruining the story for future readers!

                    I actually read the book fairly slowly and went several days or weeks without picking it up (Due to being busy-not bored of it!). This did not cause a problem as I always managed to pick up where I left off and there was no issues of forgetting characters, which I have done in other books

                    I would definitely recommend this book as a great read that is not too heavy, but keeps an interesting story to escape to.

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                      25.07.2008 16:21
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                      I was so surprised to love this but I did!

                      Whilst most Jodi Picoult book's surround a crime and courtcase, this one is based around a different type of case - a custody case. That said this part of the book is actually quite minor, although essential to the plot. Jodi Picoult always likes to write about something very controversial in her books, but here it isn't along the same lines as usual: rape, murder, abduction etc. Here she takes something that will perhaps cause even more controversy to write about; religion.

                      This very fact put me off reading the book for a long time as I'm not the least bit religious, nor am I the slightest bit interested in it. This is a view that most non religious people might take, being put off a book if they think it is going to be based around religion. In fact as I lay reading this book on the beach on holiday, and my boyfriend could read the tag line on the front cover; "You don't believe in God. Your daughter is talking to angels. What would you do?" the look on his face said it all along with a "what are you reading that for??" comment. To be honest I knew exactly what he meant and hadn't particularly wanted to read this one but simply due to the fact it was written by Jodi Picoult I expected that it may well end up being my least favourite of her books, but I expected that it would still be good simply as I couldn't imagine her writing a bad book.

                      I'm not exactly sure who this would appeal to initially to read. For those who are non religious, it doesn't jump out as something you want to read but for those who do have strong religious views it would possibly be even less likely for it to appeal to them as it may contradict beliefs that they take very seriously and whilst I'm not entirely sure on these sort of matters, writing such fiction about things they believe to be fact could be offensive to some people.

                      Now all that said, I want to say before going any further how pleasantly surprised I was by this book, as I really loved it, and found it to be far from "preach-y", I'd go as far as saying it's quite open minded and encourages you to come to your own conclusions about a lot of what is happening in the book.

                      The story itself is about a little Jewish girl, who suddenly seems to be communicating with God, sparking a lot of interest from the Catholic religion, the media and from a huge amount of the public who hope she can heal them or just want to be as close as possible to "God", did I mention that the God she is talking about happens to be female, sparking a lot of controversy within the book and no doubt with in any religious circles in real life that have been made aware of the book.

                      I know, it all sounds very religious but it really doesn't read that way. Faith, the Jewish girl, is a non practicing Jew who has never been to any religious group or church in her life and the story of her speaking to God comes about in the midst of a difficult divorce between her mother and father.

                      The character's here are very believable. Jodi Picoult manages to write seven year old Faith, her somewhat troubled mum and her cheating father all equally well. Added to the mix is anti-religious TV Presenter who makes a living off proving religions wrong on television. The book portrays all these character's perfectly, making each one seem so realistic, which given how different they are makes Jodi Picoult's ability to bring character's to life outstanding.

                      Here there are character's that you will love and some you will be at the very least disappointed with but it's easy to understand where everyone in this book is coming from, which considering how many different angles the different character's are coming from is again quite a feat to make us understand everyone's actions and views.

                      Faith's mother Mariah is such a realistic character that it's impossible not to emphasise with her. At times it's hard to know if what you're feeling for Mariah is right or whether there's things you don't know which can leave you confused and second guessing yourself but that only makes it realistic to how you can feel about real people. Mariah struggles at times, and goes through some heartwrenching times through the demise of her relationship in which she is most definitely the party who is perhaps too in love with the other, perhaps an unhealthy amount. She is also quite an accurate portrayal, I think, of anyone who isn't a natural mother earth type, but nonetheless loves their child just as much and spends every day trying to get it right and worrying they aren't a good enough mum.

                      The other characters in the book are all equally well written but Mariah, not Faith, is most definitey the lead character. Ian Fletcher, the anti religious TV presenter is a suprising favourite character and is really well developed and written.

                      I've said this again and again but it's the characters in Jodi Picoult books that make them so much better than other books. They are so well rounded and so well developed that it's hard to remember that they didn't have a whole life before the book or after the final page. They seem so real that it's impossible to not be riveted in what is happening to them and truly feel for them and see things from their perspectives throughout the book. The character's just make the book so special, and take it away from being just a controversial religious story to being a heart rending emotional tale.

                      What the book is about is essentially summed up perfectly in the triple meaning of the title. It's about keeping Faith, as in the two parent's battle for custody. It's about keeping faith, in certain characters who in some cases the reader, and some cases other characters in the book, may doubt at times. Finally, it is about keeping faith, in the religious meaning, but this is surprisingly the smallest element of the three, and the book doesn't preach and you certainly don't need to be of a certain religious view to accept what the book is saying, remember this is just fiction, if we read a book about aliens, we wouldn't say it's preaching that alien's really exist, we could just enjoy it as fiction.

                      I think the book is mostly about the second meaning that I mentioned. Keeping faith in those around you, and also the opposite, in struggling to keep faith. It also explores keeping faith in yourself, as it's often ourselves that we doubt the most. It explores this well, and the way it makes you doubt yourself and second guess yourself over your own thoughts and views of the characters within the book at different stages of the story, really demonstrates this perfectly. As always, Jodi Picoult never fails to make us really think.

                      The book was very easy to read and moved along at just the right pacing and always left me wanting to read a little more. Whilst some of the topics Jodi Picoult tackles can be quite hard to read about, I didn't find this with this one although her portrayal of Mariah was truly touching and summoned a lot of empathy. This could be harder for people to read if it challenges their views, but if it is taken as pure fiction then I can't see how it could be offensive, although some people may think fiction shouldn't be written around things like this.

                      I thought this was a fantastic book, which I will admit took me by surprise. It had such a great portrayal of families, exploring mother daughter relationships well with Mariah and Faith, and also Mariah and her own mother. It looked at other aspects of families too, and what we are prepared to do for our families. The take on relationships was an accurate realistic portrayal and showed both dispare and hope and how much good and bad can come from them, as well as how prepared we can be to hurt those who love us if we feel we need to for the sake of another person and how priorities and actions can be so different depending on how you are looking at a situation. What's so great about the way Jodi Picoult makes each character come to life is we're not just seeing a one sided blinkered view of things but a more rounded clear view at every side of a story.
                      The book was most definitely interesting throughout and held my attention well. It constantly had me second guessing the plot, the characters and myself! This constant re evaluating throughout the story made it all the more interesting and engrossing as I just wanted to read more and more to confirm or deny what I thought was going to be revealed next.

                      The ending was very confusing in the way it was written and this isn't just me as I've since looked it up on the internet to find a lot people very confused and people saying they had to re read it several times. I think it was actually intentional for it to be confusing having read up on it since, but I found that it was actually not confusing in a "work it out for yourself" way, but in the way that it was written it took me a few times of re reading before I actually understood what was being said, if that makes sense? It's supposed to be a little confusing, not spoon feeding you too much in what is actually happening, but I found it confusing also in a different sense, of finding the actual sentences hard to make much sense of if that makes any sense!!! Anyhow, after I got my head around the ending I thought it was absolutely perfect and fitted the book and the general theme and message of the book perfectly.

                      This book definitely made me think and question my own judgment of others and of things I don't know much about. It is definitely one I will remember and I enjoyed it throughout. It had me feeling for the characters and really caring which is so important in any story.

                      The characters are just so well developed that they feel like they've existed for a long time before and after the book, they don't seem just like "characters" they seem so real and most here are likeable and easy to identify with.

                      Despite what you may think given the topic, this book definitely doesn't preach, it in fact does the opposite, and encourages you to draw upon what you believe yourself, and for this reason I think this could be a very different read depending on what belief system the reader has. I don't personally believe there is anything offensive in here but if you do have strong beliefs and think from the premise of this book that it may offend you then it might not be for you.

                      This book is a strange one, as from the "idea" of it, I'm not sure who it would appeal to. I'd actually say it wouldn't appeal to anyone. For non religious people there's unlikely to be much interest in a religious based book and for religious people it's unlikely they would be interested in something that may go against or challenge their beliefs. That said from a non religious point of view, I would say if you DO read it, I think you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was and thoroughly enjoy this.

                      If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult's other books, or simply like books with character's that are so strong and intriguing plots, then this would definitely be one for you.

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                        01.01.2008 15:55
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                        Jodi Picoult at her best!

                        I am a big fan of the author Jodi Picoult, and one of the things I like most about her is that every time she writes, she takes on a new and sometimes controversial subject. This is certainly the case in 'Keeping Faith' which is the latest book of hers I have read.

                        It is quite controversial because at the centre of the story is a seven year old girl named Faith who claims that God talks to her. Not only that, but she sees God as a woman. As the book progresses strange things keep happening such as Faith apparently bringing her grandmother back to life after a fatal heart attack, curing a young child of aids, and herself receiving all the signs of stigmata.

                        Alongside this is the more interesting element of the story which is all about what happens when the world finds out about this young girl and how all sorts of people want a piece of the action. Faith and her mum, Mariah, soon discover that their lives are no longer their own, as thousands of people camp at the end of their driveway, all wanting a piece of Faith. I found this aspect of the story very compelling (and also quite disturbing) because it seemed such an accurate portrayal of the media driven world we live in.

                        Early on in the story, Faith's parents have separated and the latter part of the book is all about the custody battle they go through - both thinking that they are the best one to protect their daughter. This part of the story was also completely gripping, and as all characters were totally believable, you really feel for what they are going through!

                        It is a strange story to read though because of the content. I came at it with a bit of a sceptical stance not holding any strong convictions myself. Because of this I found it difficult to believe in some of the events in the story. I also found myself wondering what it would be like to be reading this book if one was a strong believer. Would it be offensive or would it be more believable? I don't know the answer to that one! However, at the end of the day, I don't think it really matters what the reader believes and Jodi Picoult does not actually do anything to either prove or disprove what happens to Faith. I think the book is worth reading because of the human aspects and what happens to a family that not only is torn apart, but then finds themselves in a situation far beyond their widest imaginings!

                        The main chracter Mariah is very strong and I did feel myself warming to her and wanting to be on her side. I always say that one of the marks of a good book is when you care enough about the characters and that is certainly true in this book.

                        I did feel that it was a bit slow to start with but from about half way through i was totally absorbed and not wanting to put the book down. It certainly didn't disappoint all the way to it's riveting end!

                        'Keeping Faith' is published by Hodder. My paperback version has over 450 pages and has a RRP of £6.99.

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                          01.07.2006 12:19
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                          A rather different read.

                          Mariah White's dreams of a stable family life are shattered for a second time during her marriage when she catches her husband Colin with another woman. To make matters worse, Faith, her seven-year old daughter, witnesses the unhappy incident of "the other woman" exiting the bathroom in her parents' bedroom.

                          Things happen very quickly after the incident. Colin moves out, Mariah struggles not to break down with depression and Faith develops an imaginary friend. At first Faith's imaginary friend appears to be a normal response of a child that has just witnessed a tragic incident, however, as she begins to develop stigmata and seemingly to perform healings, Mariah and several other individuals begin to feel that the imaginary friend may be God. This goes against the beliefs of the church, that feels that it is impossible for a Jewish girl to get in touch with God. And it goes against the beliefs of influential people in the media, most notably, Ian Fletcher - to such an extent that the house of the White family is suddenly tracked down and invaded by the media.

                          As doubting Colin finds out about the situation, he strongly feels that Faith's stigmata and episodes are caused by Mariah - and he soon launches a custody suit that tests Mariah's strength to the limits.

                          ***My opinion***

                          This book was highly recommended to me. It therefore came as a major disappointment to me that it took me such a long time to get into the story. As someone who does not believe in miracles and sightings of God, I found it difficult to enjoy the book at first. As the story takes places in a very realistic day-to-day setting, I did not know whether to read it as a work of science fiction or non-fiction.

                          As I progressed through my reading, however, I managed to suspend by own beliefs and to ignore whether I believed it was possible that Faith was seeing God. I found that there was plenty going on that made the book interesting to read, even though the question of religion, faith and beliefs clearly ran through every page. I wanted to read on to see whether Mariah, a person that appears so weak at the beginning of the story, would grow stronger and would be able to deal with all the complications that were thrown at her. I wanted to know what would happen in a custody suit. I wanted to know if any of the disbelieving characters, especially Ian Fletcher, would change their minds about the existence of God. And I certainly wanted to know about Faith's fate.

                          One of the attractions of the story line is the fact that the reader truly does not know where the author is going to take it - and at times it almost feels like the author did not have a set plan when writing the book - and merely took it chapter by chapter - like a stream of consciousness. This makes the book incredibly addictive - there is no time to analyse what might happen, there is simply too much going on. The only way to solve the mystery is to keep reading.

                          While the storyline is developed well and does keep the reader on his toes, there is a slight issue with the portrayal of the characters. I found most of the main characters bland and I found it difficult to put faces and personalities to them. They were almost invisible to me. Mariah, as the mother, simply annoyed me. I wanted to sympathise with her and all the tragedies she had to go through, but I simply felt like she was a stupid spineless woman. I suppose my opinion changed slightly by the end of the book - but I simply never cared enough about what would happen to her one way or the other. In the custody battle, for example, I could not clearly side with her. Whilst I had a strong aversion to the cheating husband, I was entirely neutral as to who I thought should have custody of Faith.

                          Faith herself was a little bland as well. I somehow felt that Picoult should have made more of the feelings that Faith had once her parents separated - but then again, I am neither a mother nor a child psychologist. It is very well possible that a child, at age seven, would simply withdraw and develop an imaginary friend rather than throwing a tantrum. However, if only there would have been a couple of chapters which described the thoughts in Faith's head, then it would perhaps have worked a little better.

                          Picoult does try to get into Mariah's head by flitting between first person and third person throughout the book. However, these transitions are hardly noticeable - and Picoult might as well not have bothered, because to the reader it still comes across as a third party narrative - distant rather than intimate.

                          My hardcopy of the book had 468 pages, divided into 18 chapters. Even though the chapters are fairly long, it is easy to find a place to stop somewhere during each chapter, as there are subheadings in the form of dates. Each chapter is also headed with spiritual quotes - but to be quite honest, I merely skipped over these as I just wanted to know where the story was going.


                          ***The verdict***

                          The read was certainly enjoyable and lingers in my memory as something that is a little different from the mass-produced thrillers and chick lit that usually floods the bookstores. For readers who are keenly interested in spiritual issues, this will be a real find - as Picoult manages to bring questions of faith and spiritualism into every page and certainly does make one think about the existence of God. For a doubting Thomas, parts of the story may become annoying or repetitive - but on a whole the book does offer enough enjoyment for everyone.


                          ***Further information***

                          Hodder & Stoughton
                          Pages: 468
                          Price: £12.99 (hardcover), £6.99 paperback

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