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Good Faith

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  1,496 ratings  ·  221 reviews
Greed. Envy. Sex. Property. In her subversively funny and genuinely moving new novel, Jane Smiley nails down several American obsessions with the expertise of a master carpenter.

Forthright, likable Joe Stratford is the kind of local businessman everybody trusts, for good reason. But it's 1982, and even in Joe's small town, values are in upheaval: not just property values,
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Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,411)
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Erin
Don't know why I'm giving this five stars, except that this novel was like an addiction. It wasn't life-altering, nobody dies, nothing blows up. But any time I wasn't reading this, all I could think was, "When can I read Good Faith? When can I read Good Faith?"
David
A book about 1980s real estate boondoggles. It could have been interesting. It wasn't.

Jane Smiley's writing is very good (she is a Pulitzer prize winner), and even though I was bored listening to this audiobook, waiting for something interesting to happen (nothing really does, until the very end, and what does happen is inevitable), I noted the difference between a real Writer, a literary Writer, a Writer who has mastered her craft, and one who's passably good, who can tell a tale, but has neith
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Yvonne
I have read (I think it was an Amazon review) that this book moves too slow for some readers. For me, the story builds upon the observations and experiences of the main character with the perfect clarity of a well-measured pace. Upon reflection, the plot bears slight resemblance to The Great Gadspy and Goodbye Columbus, but I liked it better than either. Smiley has more than one story to tell so if the 80s savings and loan scandal sounds dull, try one of her other books (Moo or The All-true Trav ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
A story about 80s excess, money, greed, naivete and sociopathy. Not my favourite Smiley - I found it tedious, like a slo-mo accident that you can see happening a mile away, until the last 50 or so pages. Then it became faster, better, deeper - and the complexity of the characters and personalities revealed themselves in ways both original and convincing. 3.5 stars.
Rachel
Jane Smiley could probably write about anything and it would be worth reading. The things she writes about aren't new or exciting but she has a way of writing that makes me want to keep reading her books.

The blurb sounded terribly boring but she somehow made descriptions of housing developments and buying/selling real estate interesting. The first half of the book was great but it started to drag in the middle for me. It's clear that something bad will happen but the buildup takes forever. The
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mark
I can´t believe I finished this book. If it weren´t for the severe lack of good novels in Chilean patagonia, I´m sure I would have given up about halfway through. Smiley´s novel paints a picture of the greedy ambition that swept through the US during the 1980s. It is realistic fiction, designed to portray a shift in American culture during the social and economic changes in the Reagan era. The protagonist is a small town realtor in upstate new york, raised by saintly god-fearing parents and lead ...more
Chatnoir
Aug 12, 2007 Chatnoir rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: press flowers.
Shelves: stopped-reading
meh. One of those books you can put down and use to level your desk if your hardwood floors are warped from the tears shed.
Kandra
This book was so surprisingly entertaining, I feel like Jane Smiley can make any topic sing. I like how the roots of gentrification and Mcmansions are explored in a funny, rather than dark, way. It makes the 80s feel very long ago indeed.
Snotchocheez
After reading Jane Smiley's abysmally bad "Ten Days in the Hills", I vowed never to waste any more time on Ms. Smiley's fiction. In a fit of masochism, I broke that vow to read "Good Faith", her 2003 novel centered on the real estate world, circa 1983 in the vicinity of Portsmouth (NH? The book never specifically says, but it's inferred to be north of Boston, MA), in the Reagan era. What was most surprising was that the book was pretty interesting, and occasionally flashed brilliance. Like many ...more
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
Of all the Jane Smiley books I've read, this was difficult to finish or like. I disliked every character, the plot was too real, the ending obvious. There are things about being a normal human in a small town that while perfectly everyday and natural, have always filled me with profound disgust. It's a tone of self-satisfied family life coupled with middle-class beautiful home graspiness and greed, accompanied by respectable social club conformity. It feels like a Republican Party caucus, before ...more
Brian
Near the end of 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Smiley has a chapter on how Good Faith came together for her. I was quite interested in that, so I ran out and read Good Faith before finishing that.

Smiley mentions that Good Faith was problematic, and somewhat difficult for her. It certainly wasn't one of her favorites, and I think that shows when one reads it. However, I'm not disappointed I read it. She offers some very subtle commentary on the 1980s push for economic growth. And I don't know a
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Charlotte
Rather unintentionally, I have ended up doing books on the financial theme of poverty and/or greed recently. This one I found after I heard an interview with Jane Smiley on NPR regarding her most recent series and decided to check out what of hers our library had. Good Faith is written in the voice of Joe Stratford, a recently divorced 40 year old realtor, who is ready for a fresh start. He sells a house to Marcus Burns, a former IRS agent who seems very knowledgeable about financial investments ...more
Zach
Eh... it was good, bot great; a good summer book. This is my foray into the Jane Smiley catalog, so I don't know how the more lauded novels stand up against this one. I found her female characters to be empty and not particularly deep; the main male character was the most complex female character in the whole novel. Anyway, it's a fun read, but by no means necessary.
Alison
Perhaps falling in love while reading affected my opinion of this book, but I strongly identify the lead character with my now-husband. It has artists, scammers, smart people who find their own naivete, scenery, progress - it's almost like a more-readable contemporary Ayn Rand novel. Don't buy a house without reading this novel!
Bridget
Jul 22, 2007 Bridget rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NOBODY!!
I hated this book! The characters are well developed but the story is not so interesting and there's some very graphic (and pointless) sex...maybe if it had something to do with the plot it would be okay but it seems like it's just dropped into the book for the naughtiness of it.
rachel
I don't know why I keep reading Jane Smiley. A Thousand Acres was incredible. Obviously, the woman can tell a story. Everything I read after ATA,however, is a combination of boring plus explicit sex scenes. It's disarming.
Kim
I haven't read any Jane Smiley in a long time, and I loved A Thousand Acres. But this one I didn't love so much. I agree with many of the reviews I've read that say it's slow moving, but.... I kind of felt like I was swimming along getting to know some interesting and some appalling people when it hit me that I was reading a novel and where was all of this going? I mean obviously, either the market's going to crash or somebody's going to do something really naughty, but ... I don't know. I love ...more
Sutter Lee
I liked this far more than I expected to. Picked it up at local thrift store for 50 cents. Maybe I was just in the mood to sink into an entertaining novel. I'd previously read A Thousand Acres, which made me uncomfortable, and Moo, which was fine. Something comforting about Good Faith; Joe such a nice harmless man. I can't believe I got interested in the real estate stuff, development. I liked the characters, Gordon's family, and thought the sex scenes were just perfect; arousing with just enoug ...more
Lisa Findley
Couldn't finish it. Oh Jane Smiley, I appreciate you trying your hand at various types of novels and styles, but this one didn't work so well.
Bridget Conroy
This is my first book by this author and I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it might be religious the way the title makes it appear but it was anything but. I really enjoyed the style of writing that this author has. It was easy to read yet descriptive enough so that I had a good picture in my head of the characters as well as the area and town this takes place in. The description was good enough where you get the mental picture without feeling like the author is going overboard with descri ...more
Emily
She has been on my list of "Authors I Ought to Know" for a long time, and I was delighted to discover that this was a good old fashioned social novel, which is funny and wise about social aspirations in way that struck me as positively Austenesque.

The novel opens in 1981 with Joe Stratford, a straight-shooting small-time real estate agent. He is divorced, but not lonely thanks to the friendship of the Baldwin family; Gordon and Betty are like parents to him, and their children, Bobby, Felicity,
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Jenny Shank
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news...


Hot property
Jenny Shank, Special To The News
Published April 25, 2003 at midnight


Good Faith, Jane Smiley's new novel, concerns the quintessentially human journey of a man toward the realization that he was the sucker who was born that minute. Although Smiley has explored some of these themes previously, including divorce and power struggles among families and colleagues, Good Faith once again transports readers to an entirely different milieu than those of
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Laurel-Rain
Joe Stratford is a likable young man. After his divorce from wife Sherrie, he has returned to the town where he grew up, started a career selling real estate, and seems to have a comfortable life. People trust him; therefore his business is going well. He has a knack for the negotiation.

Enter Marcus Burns, friend of a friend—a charismatic outsider—and rather quickly, he becomes a part of several of Joe's deals. Soon Joe and his associates, along with Marcus, are a team. Their plans are big. Huge
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Ron Charles
No one should turn to Mark Twain for financial advice. But the man who managed to lose at least two fortunes did famously and wisely recommend buying real estate: "God's not making any more of it."

Fortunately, the supply of novels about real estate is still strong. Richard Ford's "Independence Day" and Steven Millhauser's "Martin Dressler" both won Pulitzer Prizes, and Tom Wolfe's mansion, "A Man in Full," should have.

With Jane Smiley's new novel, another prime parcel has come on to the market.
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Sara
May 22, 2008 Sara rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Smiley fans, Jane Hamilton fans, real-estate agents
Shelves: fiction
I found Jane Smiley's novel Good Faith to be an interesting read on many levels. Smiley fills her novels with meticulous detail, helping create a vivid world for her characters to inhabit. The last book of hers I read, Horse Heaven, was a very detailed look at horse racing framed by the relationships of people -- as well as the horses -- involved in the sport. This time, Smiley painstakingly recreates the world of late 70's - early 80's real estate in the Northeast. I was really just a wee child ...more
Jasonian
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Good Faith. I think Jane Smiley is an expert writer and her style is always smooth and accessible. The main story of this book focuses on Joe Stratford, his life, is work, his relationships, and real estate in the early 1980s. Seems random, doesn't it? I'm not entirely sure why the book was set in 1982, since many of the predominant themes translate easily to 2012 (or 2003 when the novel was published). Perhaps being born after 1982 means I lack the proper ...more
Holly
I thought this book was a real train-wreck story.

Poor Joe. In the past, Joe had always made reasonable business decisions, from which he profited and prospered. If only Joe had just stuck with that formula.....

Anyway, he gets involved with Marcus and things rapidly devolve. Joe doesn't see it coming; it is us, the readers, who must suffer for him. We know he's screwing up big time. We ride the roller coaster with him, even though we know that the track is broken up ahead. All of us diligent rea
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Judy
Smooth, slow-moving books either elicit my appreciation or lull me to sleep.Good Faith falls in the former category. Albeit, it did take a considerable period of time before I grasped where the story was headed, but the main character, Joey Stratford, charmed in the interim. Fortunately, my unwarranted Good Faith in Smiley's ability to make a story of it paid off, because I had done the unthinkable and purchased 4 other books authored by her without every reading a word she had written. Whew! Cl ...more
Maggie
a bit of a tedious read. the premise of a real estate agent whose word is reliable and the time frame (circa 1980s) of this housing market story is a good one. but the entire business seemed to stretched out longer than necessary as though the reader needed a minute by minute description of the year in the life of this salesman. like i said -- a good premise just stretched out a bit too long. of course the large sprinkling of soft porn scenes will keep some readers interested, but at 67 years ol ...more
Nancy
I actually read this book several years ago. Recently when I was looking for a book to listen to I remembered liking "Good Faith" and decided that it would be worth listening to. And I enjoyed it again the second time around. It really is a very good book to listen to because it is written in such a conversational tone and Joe is such a likeable narrator. Plus it hasn't lost its relevance over the years. Indeed, the '80s "Me Decade" that is described in the book still seems very familiar. As a c ...more
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Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar
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More about Jane Smiley...
A Thousand Acres Moo Horse Heaven Some Luck The Sagas of Icelanders

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