Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bad Faith

Philip, Gillian. Bad Faith. Glasgow: Strident Publishing, Ltd., 2008. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Being the daughter of a One Church cleric has its perks. Cassandra and her family are above suspicion in the highly monitored religious society that England has become, if only just slightly. Unfortunately, every perk comes with a drawback. Most of the people Cassandra comes in contact with through her father's work are in the same situation, and some of them are above the law altogether. And everyone knows it.

How do you not love a book that starts like this:
Before I slipped on the mud and fell over the Bishop, our family didn't have a lot to do with murder.
A little, but not much.
When Cassandra literally stumbles onto the body of an important Bishop, her father's boss, she and her best friend Ming hide the body. They don't know who killed the Bishop, but they know someone in Cassandra's family is involved. Her family has been ruled by a complicated web of secrets that dates back to before her parents were even married. As more and more of these secrets come out into the open, Cass's world falls apart a little bit more. She has to deal with harboring her own secret about the location of the Bishop's body while she finds out all kinds of things about her parents and brother, tries to avoid a pack of school bullies with religion on their side, and deals with lingering memory and cognitive issues from being his by a car years earlier that just make everything more confusing and complicated. Oh, and she falls in love with her best friend Ming.

As if all that isn't enough for one girl to deal with, it's all happening in the middle of a theocratic dictatorship and her dad works for the church. One Church isn't like a church in the way that we think of it today; it's more an instrument of the state. There is a definite religion involved, and it seems like it is Judeo-Christian based, but I don't think it's supposed to be any religion that is recognizable today. Cass's father is practically a heretic because he still carries a cross from when he was a rector in a pre-One Church church. No one really believes in what the One Church preaches, they just all say that they do because it's illegal not to. Except Ming and his parents, and boy do they pay for it. As a consequence of their non-belief they lose a large property, Ming gets beat up at school constantly with no consequence other than being constantly suspended for "provoking" other kids, and Ming's parents are constantly being pulled in for questioning by the police. All in the name of the One Church. While some may read this as a book that is anti-religion, I think that Philip has done a wonderful job of making it a book that is anti-absolute power instead. When a large group of people above is the law while everyone else is constantly looking over their shoulder afraid of being watched or heard, things can never end well.

I didn't talk about it in my review, because it comes out late enough in the story to be a little spoilery, but sexual abuse is also present. Nothing is described in detail, but it's there, and it is perpetrated by a "celibate" religious man. This probably makes the book very controversial, but this person's status as above the law is the enabling factor in the abuse, not his perceived celibacy or religious role.

Book source: I bought it.
Bad Faith is not currently in print in the US, but it can be purchased (with free shipping, no less!) at the Book Depository.

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