March 27, 2017

Breaking Faith

Written by E. Graziani
Second Story Press
328 pp.
Ages 13+
March 2017
Reviewed from advance reading copy

For most people, turning points help define them in terms of before and after.  They are sparks of tragedy or ecstasy that depress or elevate, twisting the trajectories of lives onto paths unpredicted.  For Faith Emily Hansen, her turning points began with those of her mother, Lacey, but when her own begin to accumulate, they lead her down paths that are both random and dangerous, and sadly all her own.

Life for Faith’s family has never been easy.  Her mother had been devastated when her husband Simon had died, leaving her with a two-year-old daughter Constance.  She tried to get on with her life, moving back in with her criticizing and argumentative mother Dot, and even getting involved with two different men and having Faith a year later and Destiny two years after that.  Still Lacey’s life is tenuous at best, and out of control at worst.  Although her love for her children is evident–including coming to Faith's rescue when the four-year-old becomes an innocent victim in a horrific act of violence–she leaves them when Faith is just seven, moving to Toronto and making promises she'll never keep.

When Constance moves in with her other grandmother, the affluent Josephine, Faith is left to mother her younger sister and navigate her own Darkness, ever difficult as she is overwhelmed with sadness and anger, hurt and loneliness.  And she is just a child.  As they all deal with Lacey’s spiral into drug use, Faith yearns for normal but is unable to make choices that support that.  Even some counselling and making friends with Norma and Ishaan in middle school can't keep Faith from eventually breaking and heading to a life on the streets of Toronto and into using heroin, eventually hitting rock bottom.
"And my soul was broken–I'd lost Faith.  Lost hope. Lost my belief in my own destiny." (pg. 264)
The story that E. Graziani tells with heart-breaking power and poignancy is devastating in its sadness and bleakness.  Though Faith's reactions are her own, the circumstances of her life were thrust upon her by a mother with her own addiction and mental health issues, by a random act of violence and by familial circumstances which burden her and for which she, as a child, was unprepared emotionally and physically.  Even happiness was a burden.
"And the feeling of constantly being on edge, walking on eggshells, and feeling guilty (though outlandish as that may seem) if I felt a positive emotion." (pg. 17)
But, though Faith sees little positive in her life, she is the poster child for the Bob Marley quote she repeats throughout: "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice."
The reader may be hopeful that, since it is a nineteen-year-old Faith who is writing about the events and conditions that led her to a point where she needs to be rescued, Breaking Faith must have a happy ending i.e., she survives to write her story.  But I don't think there are any happy endings here.  As the Afterword by psychiatrist Dr. Vimala Chinnasamy states, Faith's story is not an uncommon one, one in which mental illness and addiction are perceived as emotional weaknesses and for which inadequate support, both within the family and outside, is provided, thus contributing to the tragedy.  And Breaking Faith is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.  The only saving grace is that Faith survives these chapters of her life and that E. Graziani provides a deep look into a life we need to witness so that we might walk with the Faiths of this world before we need to pull them up and rescue them or worse.


Check out the next post for details of the book launch for Breaking Faith this Sunday at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, ON


  1. Thank you Helen, for this powerful review.

    1. Breaking Faith is a powerful novel. Hope I got a least a few of your messages correct.