Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review: Keeping Faith

Mariah White is the sort of woman who likes for life to be organized and precise with all of the tiny details kept in their places, much like the intricate doll houses she makes for a living. On a particularly bad day when things have been frustratingly straying from her schedule, Mariah returns home to find her husband Colin home early from a business trip. Thinking he is there to surprise her, she embraces him only to discover that he isn't alone when the woman he has decided to leave her for comes out of the shower. The worst part is that Mariah and Colin's seven year old daughter, Faith witnesses the whole ordeal.

Unable to cope with her husband's infidelity (again), Mariah lapses into clinical depression and Faith stops speaking. As they both struggle to bring themselves back together after the ugly divorce, Faith seeks solace in the comfort of a friend whom she refers to simply as "her Guard." When Faith begins quoting biblical verses despite having been raised nonreligious, Mariah takes her to see a child psychologist.

After several sessions and an unsuccessful run on anti-psychotic drugs, the psychiatrist makes a startling discovery: Faith is talking not to just any guard, but to God. Mariah is disturbed, wondering why God would choose to reveal Himself to a nonreligious, Jewish child who up until recently has never heard of Him.

Oh wait.. .did I say Him? That's right, not only does Faith profess to be seeing and speaking to God, but that God is indeed a SHE not a HE. As Mariah and Faith's lives get tossed into a whirlwind of press coverage, skeptics, and believers Faith develops Stigmata and begins to perform miraculous healings including bringing her own grandmother back from the dead. As if their lives aren't hectic and invaded enough what with continuous visits from priests and rabbi's alike, Colin decides Mariah must be to blame for Faith's wounds and sues for custody of Faith.

The story is well written and well researched. I have to say that I have a lot of respect for Picoult for writing about God from this angle. Not only does she address the issue of God being female but when the grandmother returns from being clinically dead for 1 hour, she reveals to her daughter that God wore the face of her own mother.

My favorite quote from the book is during the conversation between Mariah and her mother:

"I always wondered why God was supposed to be a father," Millie whispers. "Fathers always want you to measure up to something. Mothers are the ones who love you unconditionally, don't you think?"

While I can certainly see how that is true generally speaking, I also happen to know of several examples of Fathers that DO love unconditionally as well. But I understand what she MEANS. There is just something so fierce and beautiful and even a little scary about the way a mother loves her children. It is an entirely different breed of love all together. Incomparable to any other form.

I found it interesting that while researching the book Picoult ran into a lot of people who were so uncomfortable entertaining the notion of God as female even for a fiction novel, that she was shooed out of offices. I suppose technically speaking, God is neither male nor female and also both but for (in my opinion) social and political reasons has always been referred to as a male or Father by the Church.

I once heard a speaker that opened her speech with: "If man is made in God's image... than woman says, What about me?" That phrase really kind of struck a chord with me. I am just not sure that I entirely jive with the whole Genesis thing. I would like to think that God put a little more thought into creating woman than simply grabbing the nearest rib and throwing together woman as an after thought. After all, God had created male and female in every other creature, even plants have both male and female anatomy. And even if you interpret "man" to mean "mankind" in the whole creation bit, then that still leaves an open door for questioning. If both man and woman are made in God's image, than God must also posses some amount of femininity.

What it comes down to, for me at any rate, though I may end up being attacked for it: is that God is much more spiritual than physical and that it matters very little if you envision God with a man's face or a woman's or even both depending on your need at the time. Isn't there a verse somewhere that reads you cannot see the true face of God and live? That it is THAT incomprehensible. Personally I think that when it comes to envisioning the face of God, that it matters little what you see, so long as you can relate it to how God makes you feel. I personally have no problem with a female God. Heck, sometimes I need a more matronly figure to pray to.

But I digress. In any respect, the story in this book was a GOOD story. I read it in about two days and ended up staying up to nearly one in the morning trying to finish it. If you are interested, even just a little bit, it's well worth the read... unless of course you are a very conservative Jew or Catholic... in which case you *might* walk away offended. You might not though. The priests and rabbi characters in the book are really awesome.


Tammie said...

what a great review.

ive never read any of picoults books, always assuming they were "fluff." apparently i was wrong.

Barefoot_Mommy said...

Oh yeah... I've read several of her books and none of them have been "fluff" so far. Everyone I've read has been nearly painful to read. I always end up sobbing through them. I like her style though. She writes beautifully.