Title: Keep the Faith
Author: Ana Tejano
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Christian
Keep the Faith is a relatively short novel that tackles, well, faith (and Faith, for that matter) – during devastating times, amidst large-scale tragedies, in the middle of heartbreak, and even in the people who don’t deserve it. The story immediately jumps into the messy aftermath of Faith’s breakup with her five-year boyfriend James. From there, we are whisked into her journey towards healing and moving forward. Make no mistake, however, Keep the Faith is more than what meets the eye.
Faith easily became one of my favorite leading characters to read about. As a community development worker, Faith believed that the end of her five-year relationship did not hold a candle to the plight of the typhoon-stricken victims she was assigned to. The author did an incredible job in showing (yes, not telling) how integral Faith’s chosen career is in shaping her beliefs, principles and overall personality. The subtle manifestations of Faith’s dedication and passion for her line of work were effective in making her character come across as completely genuine, which I found very compelling. Throughout the entire story, she remained down-to-earth and naturally compassionate.
However, this is not to say that Faith was the perfect heroine. It’s quite the contrary, really. As a character, she was very – and even distinctly – flawed. I’ll admit that there were numerous scenarios in which I wanted to slap her face silly for not making the best decisions and for being frustrating. Her occasional lack of better judgment, reluctance to move on, and bouts of adamant denial were imperfections that perfectly reflected her vulnerability, fragility and inner struggles with herself. These flaws molded Faith into a well-rounded, realistically dimensional personality that people can easily identify with. It’s not difficult to find a reason to cheer her on!
The rest of the cast were equally well-developed, which is an amazing feat to accomplish given the novel’s rather limited length. I adored how Faith’s friends – Rain De Castro, Meah Constantino, and April Flores – all had strong and defining personalities. Of course, Nico, the male love interest, quickly won me over. His easygoing vibe, playful charm and sweet disposition were definitely a breath of fresh air from all the stereotypical, testosterone-driven book boyfriends.
Since I’ve already mentioned Nico, let’s talk about the romance aspect. Keep the Faith offers a refreshing and heartwarming take on Christian romance. Truthfully, I tend to avoid most religion/spirituality-related titles (note: not exclusively romance) because the very few that I’ve read in the past were pretty preachy. Keep the Faith was thankfully a delightful exception. Nico and Faith’s relationship was wonderfully wholesome and endearing. I liked how the author was able to present a mature (and very believable!) romantic development without heavily relying on sexual tension and lustful agendas. Seriously, I can never look at French fries in the same light ever again.
Moreover, despite technically being a contemporary romance novel, the narrative concentrated more on Faith’s growth as an individual rather than the romantic progression between her and Nico – an angle that isn’t very common for the genre but nonetheless fascinating to read about. More than just a story about two people falling in love, the novel talked about a range of holistic themes: finding fulfillment, learning acceptance, dealing with insecurity, identifying personal priorities, and healing in general. I loved it.
Another element that I absolutely adored is the story’s setting, and subsequently, the lovely integration of Filipino culture. The locations used in the novel were Manila (the country’s capital) and one of the more rural provinces, Iloilo. I loved how there was a bit of Ilongo in some of the dialogue! I also really appreciated the imagery. Seeing an accurate representation of my culture bound within pages certainly made the story feel all the more personal and relatable for me.
Truth be told, my reading experience with Keep the Faith was initially bumpy. The writing in the first chapters was, at times, awkward and a number of passages (which I highlighted in my reader) could have been phrased better, in my opinion. However, once I breezed through the first few chapters, the writing style greatly improved – the wording was more fitting, the transition from one paragraph to another flowed more naturally and consequently, it became much more effortless to immerse myself in Faith’s story. As a whole, the plot is simple and fairly predictable but the story, without a doubt, packs quite a punch as it perfectly captures the confusion and turmoil caused by heartbreak. Keep the Faith is definitely a novel I’ll soon be rereading.
Excerpt from the book:
Relief operations exist to meet the basic needs of those who had experienced a calamity. It’s not meant to sustain the survivors but to give them back their sense of dignity and hope as we figured out the solutions together. My conversation with James was my version of relief ops – it gave me what I needed to figure out where I wanted to go.
It felt as if my world had finally stopped spinning and settled upright. There was no guarantee that this equilibrium would remain in the next few days and weeks or months, and I knew the loneliness and anger wouldn’t just disappear in a snap. Our hearts can be a little bit of a storm sometimes, and you don’t simply forget anyone you have loved for five years.
But after relief comes rehabilitation and soon, recovery. And just like all the communities that I had been fortunate enough to help and witness their recovery, I knew that one day, the anger would subside, the hurt would fade, and the sadness would be just a memory. I would learn to forgive him, and myself.