In Jodi Picoult’s novel Keeping Faith — religious phenomenon, prior psychological history, and adultery issues complicate the custody battle between the parents of a special little girl named Faith White. Picoult uses this novel not only to question whether it can ever be said that there is one true religion but also to look at what makes a parent fit to raise a child. Keeping Faith is a novel that has readers mystified and wondering right to the very last page, and perhaps even beyond.
What Happens When a Jewish Child Experiences Stigmata and Talks to God?
Religion plays a large role in Keeping Faith. Faith White grew up the child of a Jewish mother and a Christian father, but in her life had no real exposure to either faith. This is what made it particularly surprising when little Faith White began to talk to God and repeat verses from the Bible shortly after her mother and father divorced. When Faith began to experience bleeding such as that Christ would have experienced, heal babies, and even brought her grandmother back to life after doctors had pronounced her death she became the obsession of religious people far and wide.
Can God Be a Woman?
Faith became a household name to people of all religions and could not even step out of her house without being harassed by crowds of people. She was questioned by Rabbis and Priests and became a target for an atheist TV host whose aim in life was to prove God did not exist.
The two ideas that many could not wrap their heads around were the facts that a child who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah could be chosen by a Christian God to display the wounds of Christ and that the God Faith White communed with was showing herself to the child as a woman. The fact that God was a woman made some question whether Faith was talking to God at all or whether her mother was manipulating her to say so. It was also questioned whether or not Faith White’s mother may have been inflicting wounds on the child and this is part of the reason for the subsequent battle.
Can Prior Depression Make a Future Unfit Parent?
A major issue explored in Keeping Faith was whether Faith White’s mother could be declared an unfit mother and assumed to be harming her child because she had a history of mental illness. When Faith’s mother was pregnant with her, she was committed by her husband to a mental hospital where she was treated for depression. Faith’s mother had tried to kill herself after finding out her father had cheated on her. When Faith and her mother walked in on her father with another woman in their own home Faith’s parents decided to divorce. Shortly after this Faith’s religious experiences and stigmata began, and her father implied her mother was repeating her prior breakdown, only this time hurting Faith.
It must be said that there was no evidence of her mother falling apart to the point of being unable to function again even though these claims were made. The court battle that ensued questioned whether a prior illness could predict a future problem and whether Faith should be taken away from her mother because of this.
Keeping Faith is not a light read, but it is a novel that will leave the reader wanting to devour the book in one sitting. Jodi Picoult did a wonderful job defining characters and spinning a tale that was not only valid in today’s society, but also mysterious.
Picoult, Jodi. Keeping Faith. Harper Collins Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 0061374962