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A Perfectly Good Family

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  1,269 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Following the death of her worthy liberal parents, Corlis McCrea moves back into her family's grand Reconstruction mansion in North Carolina, willed to all three siblings. Her timid younger brother has never left home. When her bullying black-sheep older brother moves into "his" house as well, it's war.

Each heir wants the house. Yet to buy the other out, two siblings must
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published July 3rd 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,474)
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Leo Robertson
Many of those great multi-charactered tense and alive scenes Shriver excels at, but far too rambly. I got a lot from it but can't recommend.
Karen Germain
Lionel Shriver has been a huge discovery for me. She is a ridiculously gifted writer and I look forward to working my way through her novels.

Shriver’s “A Perfectly Good Family” was as near to a perfect novel as I have ever read. It is the story of three very different siblings who inherit their family home, a very grand southern colonial manor. A bulk of the story takes place in the home and it is very dialogue heavy. As I was reading, I kept thinking that it would really translate well into a
12/29/2011: I had high expectations for this novel, my third of Lionel Shriver's works. But it was clear to me from reading this older work (first published 1996; WNTTAK was published 2003, SMFT 2010) how much Shriver's work has advanced over the last 15 years. While APGF bears all the hallmarks of Shriver's later works (gorgeous and complex sentences, incisive and often harshly critical observations of characters and relationships, and intense scrutiny of what at first seem like minor details), ...more
My sister gave me this book after I saw on goodreads that she had been reading it. She had previously given me Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin (well, she'd given it to my mother, but my mother was in the ICU on oxygen at the time and was in no position to fight when I stole it - I did return it to mom after reading it)which we both enjoyed very much. When I saw she was reading this I asked what she thought and she said she was bored and never finished it, but I could have it if I wanted. I ...more
Rebecca Foster
Compared to We Need to Talk about Kevin and So Much for That, this novel was a huge disappointment. I was confused when I read it was published in 2009, because it seemed so much weaker than her latest novel; it was only later that I realized it was a reprint of a 1996 work, which explains why it doesn’t quite have her trademark sharp wit, insightful narrator, cynical observations and loveably irascible characters.

I often expect that a writer’s most autobiographical work will be their warmest an
Did I just give 3 stars to a book by Lionel Shriver? I did. I finished this book, because there are always good ideas in her books, and the text is a trove of verbal nuggets. BUT IMO Shriver was very much finding her voice in this novel (which preceded the brilliant "We Need To Talk About Kevin") and it was a little awkward for me, the diehard fan, to witness Shriver's less steady writing. The subject and themes and plot felt cheaper (e.g. mass-market fiction) than what I'm accustomed to with Sh ...more
I picked this up because I really, really liked "We Need to Talk About Kevin," which I think is the reason why a lot of people read it. I usually can feel a fair amount of things to like in many of the books I read (or at least appreciate) but this one didn't do it for me. It's funny because I usually enjoy the universal theme of neurotic people, including families. There are a lot of us neurotic people out there. Unpleasant characters usually don't bother me either, so it's strange that I didn' ...more
A Perfectly Good Family brings a new dimension to sibling ravialry. Rivalry is really a euphemism for seething rage and blame for events from childhood to the present day where the 3 sibs battle for possession, or non possession, of their parents' historical North Carolina home. The home is filled with their deceased mother's hoarded 'perfectly good' things she was unable to discard - years of frozen food, rubber bands, old sponges - in a way symbolic of the sibs' inability to discard their own ...more
I have to preface my three star rating by saying that it pains me to give this book such an average score. I love Lionel Shriver. She writes exquisitely. I'm a big fan. I hadn't read this earlier book of hers so pounced on it eagerly at the library. I didn't love it the way I do her more recent works. It's still a very very good book and the writing is remarkable but the plot didn't grip me the way her more recent stories have.

Three siblings in a mildly disfunctional family have inherited their
Lionel Shriver writes the way a champion boxer fights—with gloves held high and a series of quick, tough jabs.

A Perfectly Good Family, first published in the US and the UK in 1996, is being released in Australia for the first time. It’s the story of three children who have been willed a grand Reconstruction mansion by their parents. Each heir wants the house for different reasons, but none can afford to purchase it from the others outright. With the mathematical precision Shriver is known for, t
Sasha Martinez
I was extremely disappointed. It wasn’t just because it failed to live up to my expectations. [See, TPBW made such an impact in my life--both the reading one and the real one--that I'm resigned to the fact that a lot of Shriver's backlist would likely pale in comparison (I mean, a lot of novels by other authors can't hold a candle to that book, me thinks). But Shriver is a good writer--just because the story of that other book so gripped me, doesn't mean her storytelling's chopped liver. That is ...more
In the author's own words "inheritance-in the general sense of what our parents bequeath to us genetically, psycholigically, and morally. How much do we have a choice about what we would keep, what we would discard?" Four stars for the "nuggets of prose" that stop me and make me go "wow that was original", and for the credibility of the story and the people in it. Nearly lost a star for the sudden glibness of the ending, where she feels like she ran out of steam, or paper, or perhaps had a deadl ...more
Denise Hlavka
I guess I'm on a Lionel Shriver roll! Having just finished Big Brother, I began this book ......still lookng for the incredible style and compelling writing of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
This can't come close.
The story is about three siblings coming together after the death of their mother and the inheritance issues surrounding their parents old mansion in North Carolina. Again, this is a family drama, exploring baggage from childhood. Overall the story was just too long and convoluted. There w
Lionel Shriver never ceases to amaze me with her edginess in telling a story. The characters are so real and so flawed. Usually her stories take the reader right to the edge of being unbelievable. This one was not quite so extreme, but none the less intriquing.

3 adult children have inherited the big, big house that they grew up in, in North Carolina, after their parents deaths. The youngest sibling never left home and lives in this house with his wife. He is the one who has looked after their mo
Jacquelynn Luben
When I suggested A Perfectly Good Family to my reading circle, it was because I had admired the writing of Lionel Shriver in We Need to Talk about Kevin. Looking through her titles, I thought inheritance would be a safer option than that notorious book, and, because despite being riveted by We need to talk …’, I doubt if I could read it a second time.

A Perfectly Good Family tells the story of two brothers - macho slob, Mordecai and wimpish perfectionist, Truman - and a sister, Corlis, or Corrie
I'm having one of those moments where I feel like the best words to describe a book have already been used. 'Sardonic wit' and 'dark humour', for example. If it's not Corlis being funny in her serious but kind of amused away, it's the author that seems to be poking fun at all of them, even though they wouldn't know it. It's just my kind of humour.

And what I find most fascinating, I guess, is that this reads like a people study. While Truman and Mordecai represent two extremes mama's boy to black
I wanted to read another of Shriver's novels because I loved "We Need to Talk About Kevin". This one is not as good; in fact, I found myself skimming in a few places because she went on too long with some of her descriptions but I had to give it 3 stars because I flagged a number of passages that just struck me; one example..."Most people do not fear their own deaths, really. Yours is the one death that you are guaranteed not to live through; you will never have to suffer the world without you i ...more
Deborah Pawley
OK, I admit it. I'm sorry Lionel; but after We Need To Talk About Kevin, I avoided your other titles. Kevin was a love it or hate it novel and I don't think I fell into either of those categories - Kevin was trapped on the boat of puzzlement with Pi and his tiger.


A Perfectly Good Family was so beautiful. An honest and raw look at familial relationships. Three siblings thrown together by the death of their controlling parents after years of separation. Three different personalities battl
A death in a family can bring them together and tear them apart. This book reminded me of a family I know (thankfully not mine). They have an oldest brother who believes he is entitled because he is the oldest and is a little bit of a bully. They have the younger sister who moved away and is the wild one. The difference is the one that stayed at home for a long time and had the girl that lived with him there, finally grew up and moved out. There are also several more children in the family I kno ...more
I find her books clinical dissection of peoples most depressing and unpleasant emotions quite off-putting. She is a great writer, very skilled at the art but the subject matter, not so great. For every one page of actual storyline moving the plot along theres 5 pages of each chracter analsing it in their heads and obessesing over every littel detail.
I love Lionel Shriver. I'd go as far as to say that she is my favourite author read in the last 5 years. I love her sharp wit, her satirical approach to topical themes, her beautifully crafted language and rich vocabulary, her cruel sarcasm, her lack of fear and, well, just about everything about her. I feared Kevin, felt smug about health and weight with Big Brother. I laughed with and at journos in The New Republic, and felt a whole mixture of emotions at So Much For That.

So this, my fifth Sh
Shriver is a decent writer but this book suffers from one big flaw, it is boring. Ok, let's re-state that, it bores me. I'm on page 59 and do not have the will to continue, life is too short for that.
Alison Evans
After the death of her mother, Corlis moves back into the enormous family home where her timid younger brother, Truman, still lives. Their older brother, Mordecai, left home long since and runs his own, not very successful, sound system business locally. To protect his interests, he soon moves back in too. The house has been left to all of them, but none of them is in a position to oust the others. Anyone who has siblings will love the accuracy of the ensuing battles. Anyone who has had to clear ...more
I knew this was never going to live up to We Need to Talk About Kevin, as that's in a league of its own, but this book was enjoyable and interesting nevertheless. I liked the basis of the story, battling over inheritance as its a common theme in every day life but one I've never really read much about. The main character was also interesting and well written. However, I thought it was slow and stumbling at times, some of the other characters were made to play a part rather than just be, and the ...more
Linda Hali
Really 2.5 stars, like author but...all Ican say since we have a reading group on this one coming up....TBC
Barbara Skalberg
The only reason I'm even giving this 2 stars is b/c I stuck it out to the end. Not even the fabulous vocabulary and varied and complicated sentence structure could redeem the pages and pages of description on their (boring) dysfunctional family. " -- the moments in which we truly were a happy family -- they would constitute more than five or ten minutes, but I also wondered if those few minutes might arguably be worth suffering the balance, thirtyfive-and-some years of crap," is about how I felt ...more
Ms. Jared
I didn't like this one. It was rather boring and tedious and the characters were selfish, annoying, and unlikable.

Usually I like Shriver's extremely detailed descriptions and insight into the character's thoughts and motives, but these characters were pretentious, irritating, arrogant, and uninteresting so it was really boring. I only finished it coz I usually really like her writing so I was hoping it would get better. It did, but barely. It was a nice, tidy ending, but not worth the rest of t
Having enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin and Big Brother, I decided to read A Perfectly Good Family because the idea of siblings squabbling over an inheritance strangely appealed to me. This novel has all the qualities of Shriver's writing that I like, but, as some other reviewers mentioned, the plot moves at a slower pace. There are lengthy sections where nothing "happens," per se, but I think the purpose is more to focus on the relationships among the siblings, and how they develop and fluct ...more
This novel is not the page-turner that the other Shriver books I read are (We Need to Talk & Post-Birthday World). Nonetheless, it is distinctly in her style in that it feels similarly disarming, forcing its reader (this one anyway) to confront the degrees of empathy they feel for the protagonist's often unpopular opinions and actions. Shriver takes on an entirely different topic here: inheritance and siblings. Her observations regarding class and entitlement are trenchant and realistic, and ...more
Lionel Shriver is in desperate need of counseling to get over her small town, middle class, middle child angst.

Clearly she is a gifted writer who provided me with some gems in this other wise conflicted drama. Perhaps I may try another of her novels for this reason. Yet most of the time I was desperate to finish. Really only so I could find out how these three privileged narcissistic dysfunctional siblings sorted out the inheritance of a substantially valued home. The premise of the book is arou
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Read by Theme: A Perfectly Good Family by Lionel Shriver 1 14 Jan 22, 2013 01:58PM  
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
More about Lionel Shriver...
We Need to Talk About Kevin The Post-Birthday World Big Brother So Much for That Double Fault

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“'s not all it's cracked up to be, having real emotions. I know that with the most dazzling men there have been times I've been terribly bored and I am sure they've been equally bored with me. Then much of life is indeed boring, and that's nobody's fault....Myself, I've been in the very arms of a beloved and felt nothing, when the only choice was whether to admit I felt nothing or to lie. The hardest thing about loving someone is those moments when you're not. And there are inevitablty such moments; the amount of trust required to get past them is stupendous.” 3 likes
“Food was a responsibility, a ward she was determined to go by, ... She'd force herself through to the last forkful even to the point of nausea, because she didn't understand that it was there for her and not the other way round.” 2 likes
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