Art Breen and his mother were abandoned by Art's father when he was just an infant. Mary Breen raised Art on her own until he was about 12 years old and she remarried to Ted McGann. Ted is a tough, manly drinker who is intimidating to delicate, young Art. Mary and Ted have two more children and lead a fairly happy life, even though Ted drinks heavily and is prone to violent outbursts. Art never quite fits in to the McGann family and is taken to a Seminary boarding school for high school. In the priesthood, Art comes into his own. He finds a way to relate to people that he never could access before. He still had a hard time dealing with men, but he found the women and children to be delightful and he delighted them. After a long, successful career at several different parishes, Art is in his fifties when he meets and befriends a young woman with a drug addiction. Kath Conlon has some serious problems and a neglected little boy. Art fears for the boys safety and for Kath's and offers free schooling for the child at the parish school. Kath is happy for the help, and Art arranges for a parishioner to get her a decent, cheap apartment. It comes as a great shock to Art and his family when Kath accuses him of molesting her son. As the story plays out, the accusation tests the faith of each member of Art's family, both in their religion, and each other.
Faith is written from multiple perspectives and spans several decades in the telling. Jennifer Haigh does an excellent job of capturing the feeling of the Irish Catholic experience in Boston. The honest analysis of the crisis of the pedophile priest controversy and how it has impacted the faith and futures of individuals and families is well-worth writing about. Definitely a thought-provoking story.