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A Perfectly Good Family
Lionel Shriver
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A Perfectly Good Family

3.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,489 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
Classic Lionel Shriver ... 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 o ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by 4th Estate - AU (first published July 3rd 2007)
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Karen Germain
Dec 21, 2010 Karen Germain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Dec 30, 2011 Eliza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
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
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
Apr 28, 2011 caitlin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 14, 2009 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2014 Alyce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 30, 2012 Adair rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2014 Tiffany rated it liked it
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
Deborah Pawley
Oct 12, 2015 Deborah Pawley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2014 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca McNutt
From the author of the eye-opening novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, this book brings up how material property inherited from dead loved ones can easily create chaos. With an already dysfunctional family as the main characters, it made for a very interesting read, although it often seemed to me that the author was trying way too hard to create something deep and profound out of a story that, although plausible and curious, doesn't have a whole lot of psychological depth to work with in the firs ...more
Dec 15, 2009 Sunflower rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 21, 2012 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 10, 2009 Martinxo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, 2009
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.
Linda Hali
Really 2.5 stars, like author but...all Ican say since we have a reading group on this one coming up....TBC
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
Dec 21, 2011 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From A Perfectly Good Family: "The hardest thing about loving someone is those moments when you're not. And there are inevitably such moments; the amount of trust required to get past them is stupendous."

A Perfectly Good Family is the story of Corlis ("Corrie Lou"), a middle sibling caught between her older brother, whom she adores, and her younger brother, who adores her. She loves both brothers differently but equally; and the two brothers, who are near opposites, despise one another.

The narra
Dec 23, 2014 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2014 Lorraine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ebooks
In 1992, thirtysomething expat Corlis McCrea returns from London to her family home in Raleigh, North Carolina. The parents McCrea have both passed away, and Corlis and her two brothers have to figure out what to do with their inheritance: a Reconstruction-era mansion where they grew up and where the youngest still lives with his wife. The idea of all three siblings living there together--while possible, as the place has 24 rooms--is never on the table. And since none of them can afford to buy o ...more
Mar 12, 2014 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Another solid novel by Shriver; this one follows a middle child named Corliss, who has a belligerent, independent older brother named Mordecai and a timid, homebound younger brother named Thurman. Upon the death of their parents, the three siblings inherit the family's old North Carolina Reconstruction mansion, Heck-Andrews, where Thurman has been living with his wife. Complicating matters are the fact that a fourth of the estate is willed to the ACLU, Mordecai's small business is bleeding money ...more
May 22, 2011 Debby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very entertaining and at the same time, very profound book about family life in all of its dysfunction, distorted motives and disguised deeds of love. This book both made me laugh and made me think and even made me want to underline, but I was listening to it on CD.
This is the story of 3 adult siblings who are bequeathed their Re onstruction era mansion home, along with 1/4 of the maanson's value to be given to the ACLU. Neither Mordeca (who left home when he was 14), Corlis (the only
Jun 18, 2009 jillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lionel Shriver's "The Post Birthday World" is one of the best books I've ever read, both as enjoyment, and as an insight into the human heart. Shriver is a flat out genius at creating these unbelievably believable characters, and then setting them into a situation where the drama moves the story on its own.

In this case, it's the story of Corlis "Corrie Lou", who comes from from London at the death of her mother, to find her radically different brothers (clean living, boring, predictable Truman,
Mar 08, 2008 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read the "get to know the author" (for want of a better phrase) section at the end of this book -- one of the best I've ever read ("Ah Wan Ow!" love that) -- and you'll know immediately that this is an author you want to read. It makes her seem sharp and prickly and headstrong and clever (but with a heart). You know what her fiction will be like.

"A Perfectly Good Family" is a terrific read. Three siblings jockey over an inheritance while living in the same house, each falling back into family-in
Apr 27, 2011 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even if you don't like her books, you have to admit she is a fantastic writer. I do like her books, though, and I liked this one very much.

I know the morally ambivalent and unsympathetic characters bother a lot of people, but that's exactly why I like it. Of all the relationships we enter into in our lives, the only really unwilling ones are our immediate family, so the strain of this attachment to a tribe you were born into instead of seeking out is real and rational. As the old saying goes 'yo
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
Jul 08, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
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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
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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.” 4 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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