I hesitated to read this one initially because of the title. I’m not a believer and I usually don’t care about books that deal with religion, but I think in some ways, that’s misleading for this novel, and I’m glad that I picked it up, despite my initial skepticism.
The main character, Shelby, is a high school senior. One night she’s driving her best friend, Helene, and loses control of her car on a patch of black ice. Shelby was wearing a seatbelt; Helene wasn’t. As a result, Shelby had only minor injuries, but Helene suffered a severe spinal injury, loss of oxygen to the brain, and ends up in a coma from which she’s not going to recover.
Helene’s universally beloved in the community, and a cult-like following begins as throngs visit her home in the belief that touching her hand or being in her presence causes miracles.
But for Shelby, the accident is devastating emotionally. She spends three months in a psychological hospital, and when she goes back home, she feels her life is over. She says she’s lost her soul, her identity, her life. She’s extremely self-destructive, angry, bitter, and essentially drops out of society, passing up the opportunity to go to college along the way because it was a dream she had shared with Helene. Her guilt, survivor’s remorse, and bitterness kill her emotionally.
The novel traces Shelby’s gradual journey out of this despair over the next several years. It’s a touching story of loss, acceptance, and redemption, and there’s an interesting little mystery thrown into the mix.
I realized after finishing this book that I’ve read one or two other Alice Hoffman titles, and I really enjoy her style. And she’s prolific, so I have a lot of other choices to turn to if I want to fill in some gaps.