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How much loyalty to family is necessary?

Faithful Place - Tana French

Faithful Place, Tana French, author; Tim Gerard Reynolds, narrator

The novel takes place in Dublin, Ireland, on a fictional street called Faithful Place. It is a dying street with the odd empty lot and abandoned house. The Mackeys and the Dalys live on the street. Frank’s family is very dysfunctional with an overbearing mother and unemployed drunk for a father. Rosie’s family is more normal, with a father who is hard working and a mother who was once the darling of Faithful Place.

Frank (Francis) Mackey is in love with Rosie (Rose) Daly. Both 19, living in homes that are very controlling and confining, they longed to be free. Passionately in love, they plan to run away to London and begin a new life together. On the night they plan to meet up, only one of them arrives at the meeting place. The other, does not appear. As the hour grows later and later, Frank becomes convinced that he has been dumped. He is so disappointed that he runs away by himself and never returns to the neighborhood or his family for 22 years. He believes that Rosie has gone to London without him.

Now, decades later, he is an undercover cop, quite contrary to the expected behavior of anyone coming from Faithful Place where cops are completely disdained and mistrusted. The only person he has kept in touch with, over the years, is his sister Jackie. When he receives a frantic call from her, asking him to return home, he is not happy. However, the family is at their wit’s end because a suitcase was discovered in an abandoned house on their street. It may very well belong to his old girlfriend, Rose Daly. What was it doing in number 16 Faithful Place? Where was Rose Daly? Did she run off all those years ago? If she did, why did she leave her suitcase behind? Where did Frank Mackey run 22 years ago? Why did he run? When 16 Faithful Place was fully searched, a body was found hidden there. Many more questions arise. Was Rose Daly murdered and if so, by whom? The story twists and turns and highlights family loyalty above all else, even with their awful warts and foibles.

The story’s murder investigation highlights the whirlpool some people get stuck in because of poverty and a lack of education. The meaning of the family and the neighborhood take on new meaning? How much does any family member owe to another? What is the responsibility of one to the other? How much damage does a dysfunctional family do to each member? Can a family be so toxic that the only cure is a complete separation from it? Should family devotion and honor (even when the family is less than stellar) be above the law? On this matter, I believe the novel sends mixed messages when the interactions between Frank and his daughter Holly are explored. When is it okay to lie? Is it okay to lie to law enforcement? Does genetic history predetermine all personality traits? Can negative traits be overcome? Can good behavior be learned as well as bad behavior? Can a person who has experienced poor parenting be a good parent? Is the solving of a crime dependent on expedience or guilt or innocence? Why is there so much resentment toward the police force? Many questions arise, and they are even more relevant today regarding law enforcement than when the book was written a decade ago.

I was glad that this author did not fall prey to the need to put in wasteful sex scenes to titillate the reader even when there was no relevance like so many authors do today in order to attract readers. However, there was too much wasted dialogue that seemed irrelevant. The narrator, Reynolds, was excellent in both accent and tone. The author caught the authentic atmosphere of family life in Dublin on such a street like Faithful Place.