“Faith” by Jennifer Haigh

August 27, 2011 at 1:22 PM | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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Do you know the author Jennifer Haigh? She has written four novels and her latest, Faith, is a masterpiece. It is a story of an Irish-Catholic Priest-soaked family set mostly in the last decade, a period of the latest greatest embarrassment to the Catholic hierarchy, that of the molestation epidemic. But for all that, Faith is an incredibly touching story of Father Art, his sister Sheila who tells the story, his brother Mike and a mother trying  to channel Rose Kennedy with her blinders full on but without Hyannis as a backdrop.

I found Haigh by chance just after her first novel, Mrs. Kimble, came out. As I recall, I liked the book jacket at first and then the book. She tells stories about families and her novels are ‘novel novels’ — if you know what I mean. Reading Faith I followed my time-honored method of reading wonderful novels:

  • I begin reading and after a few pages I know that I’ll like the story; I’m hooked and I put the book aside for a day or so.
  • I take up the novel and read as if starving for it.
  • Just before the end,  I put it aside for a few hours or even a day because I don’t want it to be over.

As I began reading Faith I thought of Father Martin, my Father’s uncle who died before I was born and my two maiden aunts and my step-grandmother from Ireland and I thought of growing up as an Altar Boy and the Nuns from Ireland and drinking and though I don’t feel Boston at all, when you grow up so drenched in a religion as I did, there is an irresistible pull to this very sad yet striking story that gets you out of Beantown, past geography and makes you want to make sure that you don’t miss living, as Father Art almost missed it.

It is a story, most of all, of loneliness.

A Thanksgiving Memory

November 25, 2010 at 5:52 AM | Posted in Family Life, Food, Growing up | 6 Comments
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Mince pie

In the fifties, as I can recall, we always had Thanksgiving at our house. With 6 kids, we were likely a hard sell and that was fine with me; I trusted my mother’s cooking. It wasn’t a question then of hoping if everyone was in town — were else would they be? Wednesday as a bad travel day was not one of our worries.

Our most consistent guests for Thanksgiving were my Aunts Mary and Elizabeth and we always said their names in that order, oldest first. They were the maiden aunts of my father and they helped bring him up after his mother died when he was only two. They had another brother, besides my grandfather and he was a Priest. Father Martin died long before I was born, as my father was headed out to the Pacific at the tail-end of World War II.

Those aunts loved us but I was too young to understand that their protectiveness was love. Aunt Elizabeth once gave me money as a bribe not to wear plastic sun-glasses as they were bad for my eyes; I was not allowed to eat the bottom of  a cone where the soda-jerk held it. In Prospect Park in Brooklyn with Aunt Mary, I was not allowed to drink from a public water fountain unless I used the cup she had brought with her for just this eventuality.

On Thanksgivings, and I’m thinking of the ones over fifty years ago, they would bring two pies from Ebinger’s, the famous bakery in Brooklyn. The second time they walked into our house with those neatly tied boxes, I had only one thought: ‘I hope they didn’t bring mince pies again!’

I had been worried about those pies for days — almost as much as I had about getting one of the drumsticks (as the oldest, in my mind, it was my due.) We considered mince pies (what is mince?) not just bad in themselves but they took the place of delectable cherry and blueberry pies.

One time, as I got older, I asked my Aunt Mary not to bring mince pies anymore. She gave me a look and said that I was “as bold as brass.” Then, she laughed.

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