Review: Good to a Fault

Why I picked it: I bought this novel as a new release, on a business trip to Toronto in 2008.  I decided to read it in October, along with two other novels that I have been meaning to read for a while. 

When I mentioned my plan, Judith (Leeswammes Blog) mentioned she had a copy of the book and also wanted to read it so we decided to read it together.  She asked me a few questions (answers below), make sure you click to her review to read the rest of our conversation.  A great way to read/discuss a book!

Type: Fiction

Synopsis: 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.

Quick Take: I didn't care for the characters all that much but that's okay, this book is a story of humanity and the testing of boundaries (the message jumps off the page).

Judith's email mentioned that she 'loved the happy-family feel and how others helped out Clara.' I had a different response while reading the book, I struggled with Clara's decisions.  I guess I was narrow minded in my reading experience... looking back I understand Judith's comment but I still don't understand Clara.

Can I say I loved the writing and descriptive nature of the book?  Dolly, Lorraine's daughter and the Grandmother kept my interest.  I wanted to know what happened to them.  Click over to Judith's review to read the rest of the review.

This book has left me thinking, for that alone it deserves four stars.

Let's get to the questions:

Judith: After reading my review, is there anything that you had a totally different reaction to? We don't always enjoy the same books, but with Good to a Fault we did, so I'm wondering if we liked/disliked the same elements in the book.

Mari: My first reaction, while reading this book, wasn’t a good one. I found myself disliking it so much yet I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know what happened to Clayton (Lorraine’s husband) and I enjoyed the roughness of Lorraine. Being homeless and longing to provide for one’s family… unthinkable. I cared about this family. I would love to know what happened five years later. How’s Dolly? Is Lorraine healthy? Is the family settled? I wasn’t all that invested in Clara.

Judith: What did you think of the reverend, what was his role in the book? Did you notice how he lost some of his faith straight after the break up with his wife but later gained it again (or do I see this wrongly)?

Mari: He tried to explain to Clara that she didn’t need to get involved with the family post crash, and I was surprised that he wasn’t interested in going to the hospital to visit with Lorraine (at Clara’s request). I didn’t like him all that much, he was a weak person. But again… maybe this is what happens to someone after years of a terrible marriage. I agree with you, he seemed to be a stronger person by the end of the novel.

Judith: And what about Darwin, Lorraine's brother? Why was he introduced as a drunk but then later helped out so brilliantly?

Mari: Darwin is a free spirit! He brought a lightness to the book, he really wanted to help Clara while helping Lorraine’s family. Did you ever wonder, if the family was there temporarily, why he made all the house improvements? Could you imagine coming home and discovering someone built a room in your basement without asking? I’m a literal/rigid reader… you can see why I struggle with imaginative stories!

Judith: Of course I also want to know what you thought of Clara. Could you imagine being like her? What would you do the same/different?

Mari: What can I say about Clara… the situation was so strange, she invited a circus into her home. In America there would have been housing options for the family. If I was faced with a similar situation and chose to help the family (I like to think I would)… I would pay for an apartment for a month/two rather than getting lost in my home. Compassion is wonderful but boundaries need to be set (smart decisions).

In the end, Clayton’s family walks out of Clara’s life as we would expect, only to leave a new grieving process to begin for Clara. I think she realized how important family is, she really wanted to keep the children.

It was great reading a novel together and having a chance to discuss it.  Let's do this again sometime. Thanks Judith!  

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy