Good to a Fault

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Overview

Shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Giller Prize, this "profoundly humane novel" (Vancouver Sun), wrings suspense and humor out of the everyday choices we make, revealing the delicate balance between sacrifice and self-interest, doing good and being good.

Clara Purdy is at a crossroads. At forty-three, she is divorced, living in her late parents' house, and near-ing her twentieth year as a claims adjuster at a local insurance firm. Driving to the bank during her lunch hour, she...

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Good to a Fault

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Overview

Shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Giller Prize, this "profoundly humane novel" (Vancouver Sun), wrings suspense and humor out of the everyday choices we make, revealing the delicate balance between sacrifice and self-interest, doing good and being good.

Clara Purdy is at a crossroads. At forty-three, she is divorced, living in her late parents' house, and near-ing her twentieth year as a claims adjuster at a local insurance firm. Driving to the bank during her lunch hour, she crashes into a sharp left turn, taking the Gage family in the other car with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara decides to do the right thing. She moves Lorraine's three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house—and then has to cope with the consequences of practical goodness: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love.

What, exactly, does it mean to be good? What do we owe each other in this life, and what do we deserve? Good to a Fault is an ultimately joyful book that digs deep, with leavening humor, into questions of morality, class, and social responsibility. Marina Endicott looks at life and death through the compassionate, humane lens of a born novelist: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance in between.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When Clara Purdy, a lonely divorcée in her forties, accidentally crashes into the Gage family's car, she has no idea that she's just said goodbye to life as she knows it. The Gages, who were living in their car, are now homeless, and when Lorraine, the family matriarch, is admitted to the hospital, she's diagnosed with cancer. Now Clara is faced with a dilemma:What exactly does she owe this chaotic family?

In a scene out of The Blind Side, Clara ends up taking the Gage children and their unpleasant grandmother into her own tidy home and caring for them all. In the process, Clara is finally able to let go of her own past, including the memory of her parents, now deceased. She bonds with the children, especially the baby, and discovers within a reservoir of generosity and sacrificial love.

But when Lorraine makes a miraculous recovery and reclaims the children, Clara is bereft and forced to reconstruct her life yet again. Will this likable, unpretentious heroine rediscover happiness? Will she allow herself a relationship with a good man?

In Good to a Fault, a woman's quest for love and meaning leads to more universal questions about existence. No easy answers are offered — but plenty of humor, love, and compassion enliven this tale of an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances.

"Witty and wise."—Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn

Nora Krug
…lyrical and inventive…never mind the soap-operatic quality of the plot. The beauty of this book is in the quiet, interior moments of its raft of characters…Good to a Fault is an exploration of kindness—its motives and limits—but it is also an appreciation of parenthood, loosely defined and always changing.
—The Washington Post
Mary Jo Murphy
Although Lorraine's illness casts its shadow over everything, it's the quieter introspective dramas, provided by Endicott's skillful rotation among the characters' points of view, that hold your attention…John Updike once said that [Barbara] Pym's Excellent Women was "a startling reminder that solitude may be chosen, and that a lively, full novel can be constructed entirely within the precincts of that regressive virtue, feminine patience." And so it can. Endicott reaches for more than that with her oddball plot, but in the end those are the precincts she's patrolling.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Canadian writer Endicott's second novel (and stateside debut) is an enjoyable and affirming meditation on altruism, goodness, and loneliness. The quiet, circumscribed world of divorcée Clara Purdy gets shaken up when she gets in a car accident with the Gage family, who are homeless and have been living in their car. In the aftermath, the mother, Lorraine Gage, is diagnosed with cancer, and Clara takes the family into her home while Lorraine undergoes treatment. The father absconds almost immediately, and Lorraine's mother, Mrs. Pell, proves to be deeply unpleasant. Clara, however, continues to visit Lorraine in the hospital, tend to the three children, and eventually takes in Lorraine's alcoholic brother as well. Her willingness to go to such lengths for strangers is a perpetual curiosity to those around her, and just as the Gage family solidifies around her and she begins a new relationship, Lorraine's health takes a surprising turn and Clara must decide again, what is the “right” thing to do. Endicott's rich writing struggles to find its groove at first, but the balance of prose, plot, and purpose soon evens out into a touching story. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Suddenly a surrogate mother of three, spinsterish Clara discovers love and meaning in a Anne Tyler-esque domestic drama. Although lacking sufficient bitterness to counteract its saintly sweetness, Endicott's second novel (Open Arms, 2001) is narrated with such lambent detail and compassion that it succeeds in casting a spell. A car crash kick-starts the story, mashing together middle-aged, divorced insurance worker Clara Purdy and the Clampett-esque Gage family: parents Clayton and Lorraine, their three children and grumpy grandmother. No one is hurt, but a hospital checkup reveals Lorraine has advanced cancer, and when Clayton disappears, Clara is left holding the babies and the grandmother. For her, however, this is a wonderful opportunity to render her previously empty life worthwhile, caring for the homeless family while supporting Lorraine. Help is also on hand from Lorraine's wandering brother, the larger community of neighbors, friends and relatives and the local priest Paul, whose shrewish wife has just left him. Clara, a remarkable fount of previously untapped generosity, begins to assume the children are hers. But a successful stem cell transfer restores Lorraine's health, Clayton returns and the children are ripped from her care. Depressed and angry, she breaks off her relationship with Paul, but in a story devoted to ideas of loss and restoration, a happier conclusion can be expected. A limpid, witty, humane talent to watch.
Carol Haggas
“Probing the moral and emotional minefield of heroic Samaritan acts, Endicott’s enchanting and poignant novel of compassion run amok handles provocative issues with a deft and winsome touch.”
Jenn B. Stidham
“A brilliantly balanced and engrossing work about illness, charity, and the very tenuous nature of goodness. Fans of contemporary fiction exploring the dangers of complacency and how domestic upheaval can lead to personal growth will enjoy; think Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, and Anita Shreve. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.”
Margaret Atwood
“There’s heartbreak, there’s joy, there are parts where you cry—and it’s very high quality writing. Well done!”
Meg Wolitzer
“Good to a Fault is one of those novels you want to tell people about. It’s unpretentious and affecting, with characters to remember and themes that linger and resound.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780099537458
  • Publisher: Windmill
  • Publication date: 2/28/2010

Meet the Author

Marina Endicott worked as an actor and director before moving to London, England, where she began to write fiction. She now makes her home in Alberta. Her second novel, Good to a Fault, was nominated for the Giller Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award for Canada and the Caribbean.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 6, 2010

    An Absorbing Read

    For about the first one-fourth of this book, I wasn't sure I would keep reading it. The amount of detail seemed excessive, and I couldn't get a handle on Clara's character. But then something changed, and I became totally caught up in the story, to the point where I was thinking about those characters day and night. I even tried to slow down my reading so the book would last longer. Now, I would say it is one of the better novels I have read in the past year. I also think the ending lends itself to a sequel, which I fervently hope Ms. Endicott would consider. I didn't get enough of that family!

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is an entertaining character study

    Forty-three years old divorcee Clara Purdy works as an insurance claims adjuster while living in the house she grew up in inherited after her parents died. Rushing to the bank so she can get back to work on time, Clara crashes into the car driven by Clayton Gage. No one is injured seriously from the fender bender, but the mother of three Lorraine learns while at the hospital she has cancer in its late stage.

    Clayton vanishes, so feeling responsible while Lorraine remains hospitalized; Clara invites the woman's nasty mother and her three children to live with her. Clara also allows Lorraine's alcoholic brother to move in too. While everyone in town wonders why Clara is suddenly acting like Mother Teresa, others also help especially Minster Paul whose wife left him; he is attracted to Clara. When Lorraine recovers after receiving radical treatment and Clayton returns, Clara feels alone as the three kids go back to live with their parents. Deciding to return to her sterile life before the accident, a changed Clara dumps Paul, but will being alone be enough after having family with her.

    This is an entertaining character study that mostly looks at Clara who goes from being alone to having a de facto adoption of a family to being alone again but with a new attitude. Although the profound look at how much Clara changes is a two edged sword as the plot moves at times very slowly, readers will root for the heroine as she begins to leave her self imposed shell seeking her relationship groove.

    Harriet Klausner

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