The Man on the Cliff

Keeping Faith by Janice MacDonald
(Harl. Super. #1132, $5.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-71132-8
Janice MacDonald has written a story about dependent, depressed and generally unhappy people. The romance takes second fiddle to the issue of what rights grandparents should have when they are unhappy with how their adult children are raising their own children. It is not a story I could embrace.

Hannah Riley grew up with a mother who is a nag and borderline alcoholic, a father who was often sleeping with other woman, an aunt who is unmarried and out in left field, an elderly aunt who is on the hunt for the man of her dreams and a sister who feels like a second class citizen with a slew of her own problems. At 17, Hannah did the unthinkable. She ran off and married an Irish singer named Liam Tully. Their brief marriage ended when Liam was off with his band and Hannah became worried that he was not being faithful to her. She slipped into a depression. Her mother, Margaret then told Liam that the baby Hannah was carrying had been aborted. Liam went back to Ireland, and the only contact he and Hannah had since then was to sign divorce papers.

Hannah, as you might have guessed, recovered from her depression and had a lovely daughter, whom she named Faith, because ďshe gave me the faith to believe in myself again.Ē Now Faith is turning seven years old and Hannah has tried to put her life together. She lives with her mother, her aunts and her sister in their family home. She teaches school, which she hates, at an exclusive pre-school for rich kids. She is dating a man she mildly tolerates because her mother thinks he is a good match for her and he has a son Faithís age that she enjoys playing with. In essence, she is a doormat.

Liam has returned to the states for a tour with his band, a folk group, with some long haired types and an anorexic female singer named Brid. Liam has been linked with her romantically but they both swear they are just friends. He is in town and finds Hannah.

When Hannah confronts Liam about his lack of interest in his daughter, she discovers her motherís lie. Liam is flabbergasted that he is a father and has missed out on his daughterís life. He doesnít know what to do, though. He is a nomad, clearly into his music and touring and writing songs. The fatherhood thing is foreign to him.

Hannah is furious that he could refuse to embrace their daughter with all his heart, while she also understands that this is not who he is in reality. Margaret, who still hates Liam, refuses to accept any responsibility for her role in their breakup. She spends three fourths of the story telling Hannah how horrible Liam is and why she is a bad person for even thinking about allowing him in her life again.

What we are left with is a wishy-washy Hannah who waffles between loving Liam, hating Liam, cursing her mother and her interference, feeling guilty for cursing her mother and through it all - wanting what is best for Faith. Unfortunately, Hannah doesnít have a clue what is best for Faith.

Liam, on the other hand, waffles between his wonder that he has a daughter and his angst that he may or may not be father material. He is portrayed as selfish, uncertain, and only content when he is making music. His unhappy past is hinted at but never really developed. He was not easy to like.

In fact, the only time I really liked Liam and Hannah were when they were making love or spending time together to try to see if they could get back together. But these scenes were brief.

Hannahís family was portrayed as a bunch of nut cases, although I think they were supposed to be humorous eccentrics. This did not work for me.

The plotline of the grandmotherís rights is poorly done. We discover some evidence of Margaretís intentions with Hannah, but we really donít understand what she is doing or why she is so desperate. This lack of understanding made the ending that much more of a disappointment when Margaret executes an extreme act.

If you have enjoyed books like MacDonaldís The Man On the Cliff, which also had a rather depressing tone, then you might like Keeping Faith. I didnít.

--Shirley Lyons

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