Tragedy Makes You Ache in Faithful Place

BlogHer Review

Some things twist your heart like a baby drowning in a shallow well. Some things wrench your gut like an innocent abused boy who turns into an abuser himself. Some things do both and simultaneously raise a salt-shredded deep and painful ache in the soft tissues of your throat: even if you never let it subside in the gulps and sobs, you know it is there. Faithful Place by Tana French brings those moments from my own history to the fore and reminds me of the anguish and what-ifs. A potent combination of the history of a fictionalized Dublin, the history of Francis Mackey, nostalgia, and tragedy, this book is one to stay away from if you’re in any danger of melancholy. However, being one who likes to wallow every once in awhile, I’m really glad that I was offered the chance to review this book.

Francis Mackey is a member of the undercover team on an Irish police force. He’s spent the past twenty-two years estranged from his family, because some betrayals never fade. When he was nineteen, he and his girlfriend, Rosie Daley, had grand plans to escape from their respective rough home-lives. Francis grew up poor with a physically abusive alcoholic for a father and a mentally abusive shrew for a mother. Rosie had an overbearing controlling father and an off-her-rockers mother. They found each other and knew that they’d found their salvation in each other.

Francis waited for Rosie on the set date for their trip out, but Rosie never showed. Feeling abandoned and betrayed by the only person he thought he could trust, Francis leaves and starts his own journey to what he hopes will be a healthier life in the absence of his destructive family. Years later, his sister calls him to tell him that Rosie’s suitcase -- the one she’d packed in order to leave with him -- has been found in an abandoned house. Now Francis is going to find out what really happened that night.

While this novel grabbed me and forced me to relive my own history in parallel with Francis’, I also never was pushed up and over the edge into raw crying jags. The novel was more subtle than that, playing over shadows and half-memories. At times it seemed like you, as a reader, were just on the edge of some gripping realization and burst of pain, but then you slipped back down again into the ache. Some might say it was slow, and it was a little at that, but it more than made up for it with flawed characters completing realistic actions. I quickly figured out whodunnit, but consistently I kept hoping with the slow slide into horror that I was wrong.

At times the author’s voice was a little strong and overshadowed the characters’, but that was rare. The touches of Dublin and Ireland were welcome with geography, history, and folk songs sprinkled throughout. The slang was entertaining as well. I had heard complaints that the novel was too Americanized to be set in Ireland to which I have to ask if those people have ever been in modern Ireland. I have (as well as other countries besides America) and I can sadly say that today’s world cultures are becoming nearly interchangeable despite their different locations: only history and a few deep and stubborn customs seems to really set them apart. Things like American Idol and CSI seem to float to the top.

I wanted so badly for this book to have a really, really good and happy ending, but life doesn’t wrap up nicely with a perfect bow and unwrinkled paper and neither does Faithful Place. Vague and drifting, the ambiguous ending does at least provide you a little shining bit of hope that things will be better and there is resolution in the future for our characters. This is the third book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, but from what I can tell they are not strictly serial. I have not read the other two to see how closely they are connected, but you can bet I will now.

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