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As Mariah White struggles with depression her seven-year-old daughter Faith seeks solace in a new friend - a friend who may or may not be imaginary. Faith talks to her 'Guard' constantly and begins to recite passages from the Bible - a book she's never read. After a succession of visits to psychiatrists, all of whom conclude Faith is not hallucinating, the unimaginable starts to seem possible: perhaps Faith may actually be seeing God. Amidst the gathering storm of controversy, most disruptive of all is the arrival of two men: one a renowned television atheist who plans to debunk Faith's claims and help boost his flagging ratings, and the other her divorced father whose fear for his daughter's safety leads him to battle for custody. As Mariah finds herself fighting to keep her daughter, she has to push past her own insecurities and stand up for herself and her competence as a parent.
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About the Author

Jodi Picoult, who has fifteen novels and three children to her credit, was born and raised on Long Island. She received a doctorate in creative writing from Princeton and a master's degree in education from Harvard.

Reviews

When seven-year-old Faith White and her mother, Mariah, swing by the house on the way to ballet class, they find that Daddy is home and he's brought a playmate. This is not the first time he's been caught cheating. After the fuss and feathers have settled and Dad has moved out, Faith begins talking to an imaginary friend who, it seems, is God. And God is not male but female. Faith is able to effect miraculous cures and is also occasionally afflicted with stigmata. When the media gets wind of this, the circus begins. The local rabbi takes an interest (Faith and Mariah are technically Jewish), and the local Catholic priest pays several inquiring visits. There is also a gaggle of psychologists. Throw in a professional atheist for the romance angle and a vicious custody fight with an egomaniacal lawyer, and you have a riveting read. Picot (The Pact, LJ 2/15/98) gets better and better with each book. If you can suspend disbelief on one or two points, this is an entrancing novel. Highly recommended.ÄDawn L. Anderson, North Richland Hills P.L., TX

Fans of Picoult's fluent and absorbing storytelling will welcome her new novel, which, like Harvesting the Heart, explores family dynamics and the intricacies of motherhood, and concludes, as did The Pact, with tense courtroom drama. In the small town of New Canaan, N.H., 33-year-old Mariah discovers that her husband, Colin, is having an affair. Years ago, his cheating drove Mariah to attempt suicide and Colin had her briefly committed to an institution. Now Mariah's facing divorce and again fighting depression, when her eight-year-old daughter, Faith, suddenly acquires an imaginary friend. Soon this friend is telling the girl how to bring her grandmother back from the dead and how to cure a baby dying of AIDS. As Faith manifests stigmata, doctors are astounded, and religious controversy ensues, in part because Faith insists that God is a woman. An alarmed Colin sues for custody of Faith, and the fear of losing her daughter dramatically changes meek, diffident Mariah into a strong, protective and brave womanÄone who fights for her daughter, holds her own against doctors and lawyers and finds the confidence to pursue a surprising new romance with TV atheist Ian Fletcher, cynical "Spokesman of the Millennium Generation." Though the novel feels a bit long, Picoult's pacing stabilizes the increasingly complicated plot, and the final chapters, in which Mariah fights for Faith's custody in court, are riveting. The mother-daughter relationship is all the more powerful for being buffeted by the exploitative and ethically questionable domains of medicine, media, law and religion; these characters' many triumphant transformations are Picoult's triumphs as well. Agent, Laura Gross. (May)

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