Jennifer Haigh's religious heritage informed novel 'Faith'
NEW YORK -- When the pedophile priest scandal broke in Boston's Catholic Diocese in 2002, novelist Jennifer Haigh, who lived nearby, thought, "Somebody should write about this, but not me."
Nine years later, "Faith," Ms. Haigh's novel about a priest caught in a similar case, was published last month. According to the novelist who grew up in Cambria County, her own experiences there prompted her to change her mind.
"The whole culture of the church and its priests is very close to me because my family is very devout and I went to Catholic schools all the way through high school in Ebensburg," she said here at BookExpo America two weeks ago.
"I have nothing but wonderful memories about the priests and the nuns who taught me. They were very influential on my career. So there was a disconnect between me and what was happening in Boston. I wanted to explore that."
Ms. Haigh said she did little or no research on the Boston scandal. "That's just not my method. The issue was both emotional and controversial enough to give me all the material I needed. I depended on my experience and the power of invention to do the rest."
So far there have been no complaints about the subject of "Faith," including from her own family. "I even dedicated the book to my brother," the author said.
In "Faith," the sister of the man implicated in a scandal comes home to offer support even though there's been a family estrangement over religion.
"That's what the book's really about -- a family at odds with itself, not the priest scandal," Ms. Haigh said. "I'm just happy that people are reading it."
"Faith" is her fourth novel. Her previous books are "The Condition," "Baker Towers" (set in Western Pennsylvania coal country) and "Mrs. Kimble."
First Published June 12, 2011 12:00 am