Faith: A Novel - Jennifer Haigh

I am a sucker for family dramas: I go to weddings and marvel as the ghosts of my dead relatives pass before me, reincarnated in the bodies of their children and grandchildren. I am a lapsed Catholic from a long line of religious cynics and, as a native New Yorker, I've always felt some skepticism about Boston with its Red Sox mania and Irish hegemony.

Faith encompasses all of these elements, as it delves into one family's struggles after the eldest son, a middle-aged priest, is accused of sexually abusing a young boy. To do this Jennifer Haigh mimics the work of other authors, especially Mary Gordon and Alice McDermott, but unlike them, her prose is often plodding and inelegant. Many of her characters are straight out of central casting. The central question of faith, which concerns all Catholics as they confront the interconnected challenges of reform and survival, remains unresolved. Although I'm a sucker for a lot of things, I resent a sucker punch. You'd do better to stream the movie, Doubt.