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The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done: A Novel
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The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done: A Novel

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3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  182 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
When Chrysalis Moffat and her brother, Eddie, inherit a mansion on the coast of California, Eddie hatches a plan to fleece credulous Californians of their cash by starting the fraudulent Tibetan School of Miracles.

But something else is happening. Through Chrysalis's reunion with her brother, she begins to discover her adoptive father's secret past, causing her own identity
...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 15th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 398)
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karen
i really liked this book, but i found that the middle was a little weak and the ending was too abrupt. that being said - its definitely worth reading, especially because its such a quick book. im just pleased because i didnt figure out all the secrets before the ending - big pet peeve of mine. im always happy to find an original voice.
Greg
Oct 23, 2008 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun quick read. Stylistically quirky, and I'm a sucker for gimmicks and usually I'm disappointed in them, but the unorthodox manner in which the book was written turned out to be a really effective device. As opposed to what some people have written here it doesn't seem like the writer was being 'lazy' in making lists and outlines instead of just writing a straight forward narrative. The lists work well to fill in gaps of the story and give background in a way that fits the unreliability of th ...more
marilyn
Feb 16, 2007 marilyn rated it really liked it
I really loved this, but I'm okay with things that are of questionable substance but have boundless amounts of style. I am even of the opinion that sometimes enough style and beautiful language can generate substance like spontaneous combustion, without the author even fully meaning to.

it's real cool and jonathan safran foer liked it: "[she] has an amazingly original way of thinking. ...is often hysterically funny, profoundly strange, and unbearably beautiful. Often all at once."
Megan
Nov 03, 2007 Megan rated it really liked it
sandra newman is incredible at intersecting several unordinary characters' gigantic and complicated life histories in a nonlinear way. lots of lists and other experimental organizational tactics. the story is so idiosyncratic it verges on surreal. really interesting read.
Goddessathena
May 16, 2007 Goddessathena rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-ive-read
It seemed like sometimes her style of outlining instead of writing paragraphs was more lazy than creative. It felt like I could skip big chunks of it and it would have no effect on the story-I didn't like that.
Athena
Aug 11, 2007 Athena rated it it was ok
It seemed like sometimes her style of outlining instead of writing paragraphs was more lazy than creative. It felt like I could skip big chunks of it and it would have no effect on the story-I didn't like that
dara
Mar 28, 2009 dara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I would've liked this book a lot better if it had been shorter. I was pulled into the story briefly (and actually eager to continue reading), but I just lost interest after the first two hundred pages. I got tired of being told major plot points in an almost spoiler-like fashion well before the events were described. It would have benefited from a little more order in all the "chaos." I put quotations around the word because it seems more of an intentional style, which has its charm to begin wit ...more
Kayleen
Jun 03, 2009 Kayleen rated it really liked it
A year or so ago, I picked this book up at a dollar sale solely because a review on the cover referred to the author as the "Vonnegut of our generation". The novel sat on my bookshelf until two nights ago when I hastily grabbed it on my way out the door because I needed something to while away the hours while working a night shift.

Stylistically, I'm not reminded of Vonnegut when I read this book, but no matter: this book is really good.

The book starts with our main character Chrysalis in the m
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Jen
Mar 10, 2016 Jen rated it it was ok
Another nail in the "just because I liked one book, doesn't mean I'll enjoy ALL books by an author" coffin. I'm going to give Ms Newman the benefit of the doubt here, given it was her first novel, and not bump it down to 1-star. (and because I finished it obviously!)

She tried to do "different".
It didn't work.
At one point I thought, "Geez, her made up language was easier to follow than this."
I'm pretty sure it was written in English.
I can't tell you what it was about.
If you want to test the th
...more
Roxanne
Mar 15, 2012 Roxanne rated it it was ok
I didn't actually keep reading this book - I probably read 1/4 of it at best.

It was really nicely written. I was tempted to keep going because it was a treat to read something so beautifully crafted. However, it was really really depressing and most of the characters were really really really unlikeable and I had to quit. And it was depressing and the characters were unlikeable in a realistic way, and isn't that just enough to make you secretly cut? I returned it to the library so I could read
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Jasmine
Jan 19, 2009 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
This book took me forever to get to because I could not bring myself to read it right after Dear Everybody. It just did not feel good or right.

In fact given time as a stand alone this book is outstanding. The story is something very different but very much the same as something like Invisible Monsters. Separation, family, starting, coming together... This book for me seemed very special. The psychosis of the characters made a very specific kind of sense. If someone were truly to go crazy this i
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Kevin
Jul 22, 2008 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of unconventional writing styles
Shelves: fiction
Sandra Newman employs numbered and bulleted lists throughout her first novel, but The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done doesn't suffer because of it. Since the nature of the lists require each point to be succinct, the technique works as long as each brief detail covers a very important matter we'd rather not glean through exposition or inner monologue.

If any fault can be laid at Newman's feet, it would be there for the too-quick wrap up in the concluding pages, but she is hardly the first a
...more
Maria
Mar 01, 2010 Maria rated it it was ok
i could not tolerate this book. the dialogue irritated me - especially the brother's. the lists irritated me. none of the characters were developed in any way to make you care about them. and i dont think any of it was funny.

i had to stop reading it and return it to the library. i could not understand what i would be taking away from this book after forcing myself to read it so i just gave up!


usually when i have nothing nice to say i do not but i could not help this.
Stephanie
Sep 01, 2008 Stephanie rated it really liked it
This book is absolutely unlike anything I have ever read before. That's why I liked it, for its originality. Not a sane or sober character in the bunch. Not a light read b/c it takes some focus to keep the characters and their relationship to each other straight. Lots of loose ends flying around until the end. It's "out there," though, you've been warned. Very, very unique, ecclectic. Almost bizarre. But I liked it.
Jessica
Jan 02, 2016 Jessica rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, because I admired the interesting and innovative techniques used in telling the story. But I hated all the characters so much--their self-absorption and inability to genuinely care about one another actually made my stomach hurt.
Jon
Oct 17, 2013 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's impossible for me to say whether this is a2, 3,or 4 star book. Is it genius or merely an outline of detailed character sketches that goes nowhere? I truly don't know, but even though I didn't like the book, I had a nagging feeling that I didn't understand it. Like it or not, art creates feelings like that. Then again so does a fraud. For that reason, this book is easily loved or hated.
Christine
Unfortunately there's no option for 'couldn't finish'. I was sort of enjoying it, the writing is really unique, funny, clever....but I got bogged down just after half way. Perhaps I'll finish it later. Perhaps the main character was just a bit too neurotic/psychotic for me to persevere with. And the brother was such a wanker. Still, the plot was interesting.
Miriam
I didn't read far enough to find out what Newman thinks is the only good thing anyone has ever done. It's for sure not writing this book though. The gimmicky writing gets old fast and the characters are not people you want to spend time with.
Alex
Nov 13, 2007 Alex rated it it was amazing
I like its form. Deconstruction stuff without the annoying babble. Turns religion, philosophy, and mental conditions into an economy. As my dear friend Deborah Carver would say, "Everything is always about sex or fate." This is both.
Säbelzahnfuchs
Apr 29, 2016 Säbelzahnfuchs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starts with family drama and fake Buddhism, ends with professional Blackjack, the CIA, biological warfare, murder, torture, suicide - and aliens?!?!
Somewhat intriguing, though. Left me sadder than I would have guessed.
Laura
Apr 24, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
Parts of this book made me laugh out loud on the bus. The narrator uses outlines to tell the story, which I thought was very clever.
Andrea
Apr 29, 2013 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of the experimental
I liked this strange novel and if you like to read about California weirdness, gambling, and mysterious parents, this is the book for you.
Carol
Sep 27, 2007 Carol rated it it was amazing
You've never heard of this book because no one has, but it's AWESOME and you'll never know till you read it, damn it, so read it.
благородных благодати
It is a strange book, a mesh of unexpected events ocurr and well, there's pokar, CIA stuff and faith in the game.
Fred
Oct 28, 2008 Fred rated it really liked it
This was a very odd book, even for me. I just can't tell if it was a good book...
Alison
Jan 05, 2011 Alison added it
Apparently I read this but I remember nothing about it!
Howard
Feb 27, 2008 Howard rated it really liked it
Funny, unexpected, sad, and vastly entertaining.
Jane Slavin
Jul 11, 2011 Jane Slavin rated it it was amazing
A wonderful surprise. Just read it.
Abbi Dion
sandra frickin rules.
Leah
Nov 18, 2014 Leah rated it it was amazing
Gets better with every read.
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“Examining the actual contents of my crying, I found a quailing sludge emotion, with a foul insecticide taste. If it was a peanut, you would spit it out. Yet I was indulging this toxic goo, giving it its head and letting it dictate my actions. People had every good reason to despise me. ” 5 likes
“He says nothing, vehemently. I falter away and we sit, mutually staring into the fouled water. ...


With time to kill, I ponder dismally the possible derivation of the zombie myth from people like my boyfriend. I picture Ralph blackened, semi-fingered, with bright bone peeking through his flesh. The odd small worm clings, festively wiggling. In my image, Ralph's really upset about decaying, and I feel for him sorrowfully. I want to tell him I would still love him, if he were decomposed. Of course in practice there is no predicting what I'd feel, and besides which, it's a wild associative leap.


I ponder dismally how I've alienated people, all my life, with my bizarre associative leaps. ”
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