Good to a Fault

Good to a Fault

by Marina Endicott


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“There’s heartbreak, there’s joy, there are parts where you cry—and it’s very high quality writing. Well done!”
— Margaret Atwood

“Unpretentious and affecting, with characters to remember and themes that linger and resound.”
— Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Ten-Year Nap

Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault wrings suspense and humor out of the everyday choices we make, revealing the delicate balance between sacrifice and self-interest, between doing good and being good. In the vein of the novels of Carol Shields and Ann Patchett, Good to a Fault is a “witty, wise. . . . [and] brilliantly paced” (Colm Tóibín) delight.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061825903
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/08/2011
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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.

What People are Saying About This

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!”

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.”

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.”

Customer Reviews

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Good to a Fault 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
danivg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of Marina Endicott or her novel, Good to A Fault until it was chosen for Canada Reads 2010. I am so glad it was selected or I might never have read this book and I loved it.The storyline kept me turning the pages and it's themes were very thought provoking. I felt for each of the characters although they were almost a little too heartbreaking to be real. I thought they were too forgiving of each other and pretty passive about their situations.I adore Endicott's writing style. She often uses words in an unexpected way to describe a feeling or a moment with very powerful results. I found myself rereading sentences and marvelling at her ability to conjure such a vivid picture with language.
Scrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this novel!After having been involved in a car accident, Clara, the protagonist, decides to look after the family of a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer. Unaccustomed to a house full of children, one of whom is an infant, Clara finds herself exhausted, unemployed, and questioning her own motivations. The characters are exceptionally realistically brought to life, the plot, intricately woven, the sentences infused with images which seemingly occur naturally and do not interrupt the flow of the writing. It was so good, I was truly sad to reach the last word.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I finally read this book and just in time because it has been chosen as one of the Canada Reads books for 2010. It will be defended by Simi Sara who I am not familiar with but she's been in radio and TV for 20 years so she should do a good job.I really liked this book but I'm not sure it will win the contest. It is up against Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie Macdonald which I read years ago and thought was a great book. More recently I read Nikolski which may be quirky enough to take the title as well (thinking back to 2008 when King Leary by Paul Quarrington won.Clara Purdy was living a quiet life in Saskatoon, working in an insurance office and living by herself in the home she grew up in. Then she ran her car into a Dodge Dart owned by a family that was moving to Fort MacMurray. They had been living in the car for a while as they had very little money. The family consisted of father (Clayton), mother (Lorraine), Clayton's mother Mrs.Pell, children Darlene, Trevor and Pearce. No one was badly hurt in the accident but while at the hospital it was noticed that Lorraine had some peculiar bruises, not caused by the crash. After some tests she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma which would require extensive treatment. Clara decided to open her house to the family so they would have a place to stay while Lorraine was receiving treatment. Little did she know what she was getting herself in for. After one night Clayton disappeared in Clara's mother's car. Mrs. Pell can not be trusted to look after the children while Clara goes out to visit Lorraine. It becomes clear to Clara that she has to take a leave of absence from work. Fortunately Clara (who is soon called Clary by the children and everyone else) has some assistance from her next door neighbour, Mrs. Zenko (everyone should have a next door neighbour like her) and her cousins who live just outside of Saskatoon. Clayton manages to get in touch with Lorraine's brother, Darwin, (by using Clara's phone calling card) and he comes to stay in Lorraine's room at night which removes some burden from Clara. And then there is the Anglican priest at Clara's church, Paul Tipett, who has personal problems of his own but manages to provide some support for Clara.I really loved how all the characters grew throughout the book. Darlene discovers the solace that books can give and what book lover could resist that even though Darlene is also a sneak and a thief. Clara is not just a person who helps others, she is also using them to enrich her own life. Even Mrs. Pell, a disgrace to grandmotherhood, has some emotional depth.I think this would be an excellent book for a book club. There is lots of room to discuss everyone's motives and the ending should provide lots of fodder for discussion too. I imagine one of the questions would be "What would you do in a situation like this?" I doubt if I, personally, would be able to step up like Clara did. I wouldn't want my comfortable life changed to the extent that hers was. I hope I would try to put the family in touch with agencies that could help them and I would check on them from time to time but I wouldn't take them into my home. But then I wouldn't have the kind of enriching experience that Clara had.
Scrabblenut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Clara accidentally hits the car of a family that is living in their car and is overcome by guilt, and decides on the spur of the moment to help them out when she learns the mother has lymphoma and the three young children need someone to care for them since their father and grandmother are not very competent. She takes them into her home and falls in love with the children while coping with all kinds of very human problems and frailities. All the characters ring true and are utterly fascinating, even if the story is a little unbelievable. I loved it.
MacFly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marina Endicott¿s Good to a Fault was on the Giller prize shortlist for 2008. This book deserved that placement. The story explores the concept of good as the main character, Clara, cares for three children of a woman who is stricken with cancer. Clara comes to care about the children immensely and, in her heart, wants to keep them because she feels she can best care for them. This book kept me interested throughout and had an ending that was satisfying but not predictable.
lornay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marina Endicott's second novel, Good to a Fault was a finalist for the Giller Prize in 2008 and a winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the region of Canada and the Caribbean in 2009. This book was also listed as one of the Globe and Mail's top 100 books of 2008. Born in Golden, British Columbia and brought up in Vancouver, Nova Scotia and Toronto has also been the dramaturge of the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre, which accounts for this novel being set in Saskatoon. She currently lives in Edmonton.Good to a Fault can be seen as a twenty-first century retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Clara Purdy is a 43 year old divorced insurance agent, who has been living a quiet and drab life since the death of both of her parents. She literally takes a ¿wrong turn¿ one day, making an illegal left turn, which results in a collision with a down and out family in the other car. In the aftermath of the accident at the hospital, Clara finds out that the mother of the family, Lorraine, has cancer which needs immediate and prolonged treatment. At church a few days later Clara knows what she has to do: ¿She had worked in shelters ... it was not possible for her to send them to a shelter. During the Hosanna, in the high cascading descant, she'd known what she had to do. If any of this was true, if there was God. She had wanted useful work: this was it. And if there was no God, then even more, she had to do it.¿ Clara takes in the whole family: 3 childen, including a nursing baby, the shoplifting grandmother and the shiftless husband.And by her act of mercy, her life and the lives of all those around her are transformed. Transformation is not always comfortable and Endicott deftly brings out both the humour and the pathos of Clara's journey. The publisher, Free hand Books has a book club guide for Good to a Fault on its website and it says ¿What, exactly, does it mean to be good? When is sacrifice merely selfishness? What do we owe in this life and what do we deserve? Marina Endicott looks at life and death through the compassionate lens of a born novelist: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.¿T.F. Rigelhof in the Globe and Mail says ¿Marina Endicott is really funny, a sweet-natured but sharp-eyed and quick-tongued social observer in the Jane Austen-Barbara Pym-Anne Tyler tradition, who can wring love, revulsion and hilarity from readers in a single page.¿ He also compares this novel to Barbara Gowdy's Helpless.Endicott herself admits that she based the book on a real life incident. In an interview with Rob Maclennan, she said ¿A tidy little K Car collided with an old beater. A very nice woman got out of the K-car, quite apologetic and worried, and the doors and windows flew open in the beater and about 15 people poured out, all screaming and yelling. That moment of chaos, of slapstick and disaster mixed, just stuck in my mind for years.¿ There are other echos of Endicott's life: she lost family members to cancer and had cancer herself. Her father was an Anglican priest and much of the novel revolves around the Clara's relationship with her parish priest. She references real Saskatoon locations, which attracted me because I too spent many years there. And just in case you end up discussing this novel on a cold winter's night, Endicott provides a wine recommendation to go with it: ¿For its sacramental depth of flavour, combined with lower-class economy, I would recommend a good Ripasso, wine made with the second pressing of the Amarone grape. Combining young fresh wine with those darker, concentrated flavours gives a full-bodied richness, many-voiced, but still clean on the tongue. The Zenato Ripasso is a very good example of the genre.¿ ¿Full bodied, many voiced but still clean¿ describes this novel to and most of its adult characters. While I found much of the plot to be predictable after Clara makes her decision to take in the family, Endicott still makes us think: what
KarenAJeff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It didn't go far on Canada Reads but I thought it was a good read. I empathized completely with the main character and felt that I would act in much the same way as she did in that situation.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this novel, Endicott recreates an improbable but heart-warming tale of generosity, family and community. While the circumstances, actions and developments are perhaps too optimistic for this age of cynicism, Endicott does not try to simplify or negate complex emotions - which is why the novel works and the reader becomes entangled in this story of relationships. I liked that each character was given a clear and unique voice, that each had their own agenda, perspectives and opinions, children included. The ending, while it could have been syrupy and unbelievable, is actually quite charming without being simplistic. All in all, a lovely uplifting story which restores faith in human nature.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Clara Purdy is a forty-something single woman with a dead-end job, living in the home she'd shared with her now-deceased parents. She yearns to do good and to connect with people. After hitting the car of a family who is living in it, she is overcome by guilt. When it is disccoverd that the mother has cancer, she takes the three children, father and grandmother into her home. Predictably, she falls in love with the kids and finds it hard to return them to their mother.The story has been described as a re-telling of the story of the Good Samaritan, and as an exploration of the concept of being good. Perhaps, but I found the plot a little unbelievable, and the characters (except for Clara and the eldest child, 10 year old Dolly) a bit stereotyped. Everyone is so understanding and helpful, except for the evil mother-in-law and the unreliable husband. These weaknesses distracted me from the bigger questions I'd been told would be provoked by the text.That being said, this is an enjoyable read, despite not living up to the hype surrounding it.
RobinDawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book starts with quite a bang - in more ways than one. It's a great start, but then it starts to sag a bit as it goes on. I think it's quite hard to write a story about goodness that's interesting (evil is much more dramatic) - and it's also hard to make the daily round of domestic duties interesting. So Endicott gave herself quite a challenge, but I think she's done a reasonable job with tough material.
Kikoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am having a hard time getting through mediocre reads, after reading really good novels. To me this is just a pass the time book. So to be honest I just skimmed it. Not my favorite.
jovilla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Clara Purdy is a single woman in her forties who is involved in a car accident at the very beginning of the book, spinning her life out of control and in a totally new direction. Who is at fault in the accident is questionable but Clara takes it upon herself to take full care of the family in the car she hit. The mother of the family is very I'll, not from the accident but from previously undisguised cancer. The father of the family is angry and irresponsible and quickly runs away. Clara finds herself in a new life of caring for three small children, sacrificing her job and her quiet life for all these new people. Life in her community in a Canadian town and all it's characters become part of the story. I loved it!
Spudd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's great to read Canadian literature from time to time. It's not every day authors refer to "RRSPs" and other Canadian-isms. This is a compelling story. I won't mention the plot here so as not to spoil it. :)
seekingflight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thematically interesting novel about a woman who seems ordinary enough, and yet acts with an apparent 'goodness' that seems extraordinary. The novel raises questions about what it means to be 'good', and whether this can ever really be separated from selfishness and self-interest, and shows quite powerfully some of the uglier thoughts that can be hidden behind supposedly 'noble' acts. I found this part of the story quite thought-provoking, confronting and worthwhile. Overall, however, I was bored by the story - which focused too much (for my liking) on the trivial day to day interactions of the characters. This would in some ways make a great companion to Nick Hornby's How to Be Good, which deals with similar themes, although I personally found the Hornby book to be more my cup of tea.
barbaretta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good to a Fault is an insightful novel, gently examining, via an engaging story line, some fundamental moral/ethical issues, without becoming ¿preachy¿ or judgemental. The major focus for Endicott is why people ¿do good¿, thier motivations, developed through the perspectives of several of the characters. Clary, the 43 year old spinster who takes in three small children and their not very likeable grandmother after a motor vehicle accident, is the main focus, but Paul the conflicted Anglican priest, Mrs Zenko who is Clary¿s kindly neighbour, Grace, Moreland and their daughter Fern who are Clary¿s cousins and Darwin, the uncle of the three children are also ¿doers of good¿ for different reasons and in different ways. The second area of focus for Endicott is that of class differences in child rearing and what¿s better for kids ¿ to be raised with semi itinerant, impoverished and erratic parents, who in their own somewhat limited ways, love them, or with an alternative parent who is middle class, boundary setting, reliable and also loving. The third of Endicott¿s themes is how people are affected by death, actual or anticipated. These thought provoking issues are sensitively explored through the well drawn and likeable, but flawed cast of characters. The perspectives of the children, particularly the 9 year old Dolly, are beautifully portrayed. At times the narrative borders on the sentimental, but it is well crafted, and because it is strongly underpinned by some fundamental issues of the human experience, it is raised above the level of just a good read, to something more complex and satisfying. The conclusion is perhaps predictable, and might be regarded by the more cynical reader as altogether too neat and clichéd. Others will regard it as a satisfactory, and satisfying resolution.
saratoga99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a very convoluted way, Good to a Fault reminded me of one of the sub-plots in the book, Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. As Clara Purdy robotically examines her mundane life, she subconsciously wonders what she has accomplished. Unfortunately, her meandering thoughts while driving create a bit of a predicament as she accidentally collides with another vehicle containing a down-and-out family whose vehicle was their primary residence.Who is at fault is debatable, but Clara quickly scrambles to the hospital to ensure that the mother and baby¿s injuries are minor, and therein lays the quandary. The Gage family quietly perplexed by Clara¿s visit, views her genuine concern as an unnecessary intrusion while Clayton (the infuriating father), immediately manipulates the wretched situation to his advantage. Lorraine (the ambivalent mother) appears to be in worse health than a mere fender-bender. Meanwhile, others to consider include Mrs. Pell (Clayton¿s cantankerous mother), Darlene (the shrewd daughter), Trevor (the ingenuous son), and Pierce (the precious baby boy).A homeless family, a Good Samaritan, and unpredictably thought-provoking outcomes offer a profoundly compelling read. Marina Endicott¿s stimulating scenarios left me questioning the ulterior motives of goodness and of mercy.
lexport on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author writes from the perspective of several characters and convincingly portrays the voices of women of all ages, a difficult feat to achieve. The story is a bit slow at times but mundane, daily activities are effectively used to illustrate the characters' motivations which creates a deeper understanding of these people.The events in this book raise many interesting questions relating to right behaviour. I'm glad to have read this book but it is not my first choice in the Canada Reads selections for 2010.
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AVIDRDRJ More than 1 year ago
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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harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago