The other familiar name I found at the library was Tana French. Well, of course it was familiar, I just read In the Woods two weeks ago. This time I found Faithful Place and decided to see if French had written a book as good as the first one.
I have come to the conclusion that French must spend a lot of time on the beginning of her books. I wasn't lured in by the first paragraph this time, but by the first two pages. I once again felt drawn into her story and quickly became interested in the characters and what was going to come next. The opening scene, by the way, describes a film noir foggy night on the outskirts of Dublin and Frank Mackey, a young man waiting for the young woman he's about to elope with.
That's the beginning of the background story. The contemporary story takes place 22 years later and the young man from the first scene is the main character. All those years later, Frank's a cop who gets involved in the investigation of the disappearance of the girl who never showed up for the elopement.
He's also a guy surrounded by families. There's the family he grew up in and from whom he estranged himself. And there's the erstwhile family of his daughter and his ex-wife. Oh, and I suppose there's also the family at the cop shop that he's sort of part of.
This stories in this book are really frameworks for exploring what families can do to their own. Frank ran away from his family even though his intended never showed because he knew it was deadly and feared what it might do to him. His erstwhile intended's family isn't much better. The situation reminded me, in less dramatic and less drastic ways, of how my parents distanced themselves (and their children) from most of their families. They'd seen conflicts and nasty behavior and kept in close contact only with most of their parents. So Frank's absence from family for a couple decades is understandable to me. And after reading French's version of family life, I have trouble imagining why all of the people in the book's families didn't run away.
There's really not a lot mystery in this plot and only a bit of suspense. But the way French tells the story and gradually reveals more and more about the characters kept me reading once again. Unlike Coel's The Silent Spirit, I never resisted going back to read more when I had the opportunity.
The ending is a bit romantic (like Coel's), but I can live with that. If French pursues the story line suggested in the conclusion, I expect it will be less romantic, since most of her stories are grittily realisitc.
I liked the book. I didn't think it was as good as In the Woods, but I'll pick up French's second book (Faithful Place was the third) if I find it in the library.
Have you read Faithful Place? If you have, write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted to it.
- Tana French's web page for Faithful Place
- Karen Ballum's review at BlogHer
- Janet Maslin's review in The New York Times
- Laura Miller's review at Salon (wish I'd written this one)