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Good to a Fault

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  2,392 ratings  ·  293 reviews
Shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Giller Prize, this "profoundly humane novel" (Vancouver Sun), wrings suspense and humor out of the everyday choices we make, revealing the delicate balance between sacrifice and self-interest, doing good and being good.

Clara Purdy is at a crossroads. At forty-three, she is divorced, living in her late parents' house, and near-ing her t

Paperback, 448 pages
Published October 2009 by ALLEN & UNWIN (first published July 1st 2008)
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Jun 20, 2009 Bonnie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bonnie by: Fiona Stewart
Finalist Scotiabank Giller Prize 2008
One of Globe & Mail’s Top 100 Books of 2008

Marina Endicott has come up with an original concept: Is her character Clara (Clary) acting out of goodness, or guilt, or a sense of responsibility? Is she selfless or selfish? Or do all of these come into play? Clara herself questions her motives, as will the reader, given the conflicting hints along the way.

The story opens with a collision: Clara Purdy, 43, a divorced, childless woman, is “thinking about herse
Had been wanting to read this for a few years, and picked it up at the library for $1. What a deal! It kept me engrossed the whole way through. It's about a small-town Saskatchewan woman who causes an accident with a down-on-their-luck family of 5 and winds up taking in the couple's three children when the Mother is suddenly hospitalized with cancer. Sounds depressing...and the themes of loneliness, longing for human connection, mortality, illness and the cleavages between us that are often defi ...more
Dec 08, 2008 Tiffany rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Deep thinkers
What an original theme, exploring what it is to be good. I don't think I've heard of a book that touches on this particular concept, at least not in contemporary literature. I usually have such conflicting thoughts and feelings toward Giller nominees, but I can safely say I understand why this book was shortlisted.

Endicott has clearly mastered point-of-view, and her transitions between voices are seamless. I didn't like Clara at first but it's clear we're not supposed to, that she's supposed to
"The cancer card trumps everything," protagonist Clara Purdy ruminates, and that sums up the premise of this novel. Throw this dreadful desease into the midst of any family unit (functional or dysfunctional) and everyone is afflicted, conflicted, guilt-ridden and exposed, not just the patient. Many outcomes are also possible: the patient can die, the patient can survive, the marriage may crumble, new romances may flourish, wisdom may arrive, and everyone is changed - tools for the writer's arsen ...more
This is a novel about what I will call, wanting a better phrase, the extraordinary ordinary, about the lengths to which people go and the barriers that prevent them from going further. It is a book for adults, full of the complexities of the intersections of life, love, religion, ethics, etc. I realize I could be writing about any good novel, not just this one, but there is nothing exotic or strange about the premise of this story, which is a car accident and its aftermath, nothing exotic or str ...more
In a very convoluted way, Good to a Fault reminded me of one of the sub-plots in the book, Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane.

As Clara Purdy robotically examines her mundane life, she subconsciously wonders what she has accomplished. Unfortunately, her meandering thoughts while driving create a bit of a predicament as she accidentally collides with another vehicle containing a down-and-out family whose vehicle was their primary residence.

Who is at fault is debatable, but Clara quickly scrambles
An okay book. The story line was great but the writing lacked oompf. Too slow and lazy.

From back cover:

"In a moment of self-absorption, Clara Purdy's life takes a sharp left turn when she crashes into a beat-up car carrying an itinerant family of six. The Gage family had been travelling to a new life in Fort McMurray, but bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer rather than remnants of the accident. Recognizing their need as her responsibility, Clara tries to do the right t
A quiet, lovely, empathetic novel about a middle-aged, unmarried woman who takes in three children. Endicott captures the pleasure of everyday life: shopping for a party, eating outside, standing on a beautiful rug. More impressively, at least to me, she shows how even stressful moments--your kid pees his pants, you get in a fight with your boss, the cake you spent hours making falls face-down on the floor--are beautiful in their own way. It's something I feel strongly in life, and have rarely s ...more
Good to a Fault is the ANZ LitLovers reading group choice for August, and it’s a wonderful book for discussion. It was shortlisted for the 2008 Giller Prize in Canada, and won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Canada and the Caribbean.

Once, exasperated by a rather dreary visit to some nice friends of my mother’s, my father (sotto voce) said that very good people were usually boring. My father himself is a very good man so I was a bit shocked, but have since then sometimes thought that he
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
When Clara Purdy is involved in a minor car accident, is it a mix of misplaced guilt and personal dissatisfaction, or simply an altruistic wish to help someone less fortunate, that prompts her to take in and care for the homeless Gage family? Good To A Fault is a thought provoking novel that examines some intriguing moral and social questions.
After years of dutifully caring for her parents, 43 year old Clara discovers that she is dissatisfied with the emptiness of her life but is at a loss to k
I was expecting to like this book much more than I did. It was short-listed for the 2008 Giller Prize, and of all the books on the short list that year, this was the one that seemed most interesting to me. I bought it then, but didn’t read it until after it was chosen for the 2009 Canada Reads.

The protagonist Clara is a lonely woman in her forties, who has worked in the insurance business for years. She’s responsible for a minor car accident, and out of guilt or boredom or a selfless sense of do
Eileen Granfors
I was surprised at the way I put off "Good to a Fault" by Marina Endicott after reading the opening chapters. But then I took it on trip, and found myself completely engrossed. At first, I was distracted by the opening event of the car accident, questioning the reality of the situation. The other driver, husband, Clayton, appears to be a horrible man, a complete and utter loser. Who on earth would get involved as Clara Purdy does? Then, as the story moved on with Clary and the family she "adopts ...more
Good to a Fault is one of several of the Canada reads 2010 books that I plan to read this year. It was first by virtue of the fact that it popped up on my library request list and therefore I had a limited time in which to read it. It took me the entire three weeks to get started, and then I finished it in about four hours.

As you can imagine, it’s slow to start. I can’t say why – it’s not the fault of Endicott. In fact, she takes the reader straight into the action with the car accident that cha
Throughout my life I have been surrounded by good people, people who are inherently good and those who choose to do good, who consistently and selflessly choose to help others more vulnerable, more in need than themselves. I have been disappointed when some have needed acknowledgement or “credit” for the good they have done probably thinking this some type of character flaw.

“Good to a Fault” throws virtue and sacrifice up in the air and then settles them back down with humanity and humor through
Lea Tassie
This is a wonderful story, full of insight and great bits of humor. It dragged a little in a couple of places, but the characters are still living and talking in my head and giving me much to think about. Endicott is an excellent writer. She shifts point of view within scenes, a technique that requires a deft hand, and which works beautifully in this story. We learn what almost everyone is thinking and feeling. Clara, the main character, wants to be “good,” but what she’s really missing is love ...more
Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault is a lovely read. The book dances deftly and with ease between sad and happy, anger and calm, disappointment and contentment; a believable tale told with honesty and sincerity. All characters, down even to the baby, receive enough attention and treatment to give us a full portrait of each, allowing for the transmission of some profundity from more than one source, which too often seems to be only the main character.

I found myself interested in and relating to t
Clara Purdy, a 40-year-old, spinsterish woman is at fault in a car accident with a homeless family. When the mother's bruises (Lorraine) turn out to be late stage cancer, Clara tries to do the right thing by taking in the three children and their grandmother. It not only turns her life inside out, it shows the fine line between being good and being selfserving, being good and being taken advantage of. The children have to cope with mixed loyalties, Lorraine faces death and losing her children, C ...more
Recommended by eb (thanks!) I liked it very much: it reminded me a little of Ann Tyler, with a dramatic story told in a quiet way. I really identified with the self-contained spinster who steps up to help the family (except, of course, I could never, ever be so compassionate. And I don't like babies.) This book is also a tribute to Canadian medicine; the ill, homeless mom was completely covered, no questions asked, no charge. In this country, she would have been taken in, treated, and sent home ...more
The whole book is heartbreaking human, each character struggling to reach out & attemping to do the right thing, but they get caught up in their own thoughts & history & just can't figure it out. I was simultaneously pleased & frustrated, for that exact reason. It's hard when they keep making the same mistakes because they can't see past their own thoughts. Also Paul's parts are difficult to read because every thought is a poem, & some of Clary's as she's so self righteous.

Sarah-Kate Lynch
Here’s a goodie – and a surprise at that. I only picked up this book because I saw that the Canadian author had won a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and it
made me think about how I hardly ever read Canadian authors.
The story starts off with lonely middle-class sad sack Clara Purdy crashing her nice neat car into a clapped-out old banger on her way to work.
Out of the banger pours a family of misfits and ne’er-do-wells who have not only been driving their car, but living in it.
Dad Clayton is a slippe
Wasn't great... The characters were kind of boring after the middle of the book and it was painful to try and get through. The story was kind of bland there was no spark that made me want to keep reading it. The characters were in this constant state of mourning/depression and the only character that had any passion/fire was the mother, and she was made to be irritating and horrid woman. I thought this was going to be better than it was. Dissappointing.
A rich, dense book about ordinary – really, quite unremarkable – people, one of whom does an extraordinary, charitable thing. Clary, though she wouldn’t agree, is good to a fault. Good enough to be, perhaps, nearly unbelievable. At least, she makes me know that I am not good to a fault. Love, charity, resentment, guilt -- all those ordinary human emotions are explored here in depth and with understanding. A fine book.
Grabbed my attention right from the start. An engaging story of a woman who takes in a family, strangers to her. Could a person really be that good, without ulterior motive?

The narrator undergoes a transition that evolves naturally and engagingly. I had no idea where it would all go or how it could possibly end in a satsifying way, but the author did a fantastic job of building to a quiet, intense climax.
Ruth Seeley
In simple, clear prose, Marina Endicott takes you inside the lives of all her major characters - which is actually no mean feat. You understand how they all feel in an exceedingly complicated situation, and all are well drawn. Whether it's Clara, Paul, Lorraine, or Darwin, you understand where each of these people are coming from and why they do what they do. Found this quite compelling in a gentle way.
Very interesting and thoughtful book about what it means to be good, and the prices we pay for being good and doing kindness to others. Where is the line drawn between selfish and self-serving?

Set in Saskatoon. This book contains believable characters, and an interesting plot. I think it had qualities similar to writing by Carol Shields.
Awfully slow, not really interesting plot. Just so slow. Time to return the book to the library - I'm not extending it.
I like Endicott's writing style--it flows well, her descriptions of setting are intimate and lovingly done, and her characters are properly flawed and redeemable. However, this book I did not enjoy as much as The Little Shadows. I felt like several of the scenes were writing exercises that she later incorporated into a whole-book format. That is not to say they weren't well-written, rather, they simply felt out of place and almost (but not quite) whole within themselves. That said, the plot was ...more
Bec Yule
This book surprised me the whole way through... Characters are well-drawn and believable but never predictable. The main premise is really interesting and very well explored. I really loved reading it; it was funny, sad, uplifting and thought-provoking. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars was because the ending was a bit too abrupt. It wasn't a bad ending; nothing was left hanging... It just came a bit more quickly and abruptly than I was expecting which left me feeling a bit disappointed...I ...more
This is so very good.

A quiet book, but I couldn't stop reading.
I've enjoyed this book and will likely seek out more by the author. I did find that the book drug in places but the character development was in depth and strong. I cared about each person (Well, except Clayton) and wanted to see them win whatever that meant for them. Clayton seemed to be the least developed character and I felt as though we were supposed to dislike him, to find no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Even Mrs. Pell who was a wholly unlikable character seemed to redeem herself. Not s ...more
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Good to A Fault 4 19 Jan 27, 2012 07:27PM  
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Marina Endicott was born in Golden, BC, and grew up with three sisters and a brother, mostly in Nova Scotia and Toronto. She worked as an actor and director before going to England, where she began to write fiction. After London she went west to Saskatoon, where she was dramaturge at the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre for many years before going farther west to Mayerthorpe, Alberta; she now lives ...more
More about Marina Endicott...
The Little Shadows Open Arms New Year's Eve Close to Hugh Charité bien ordonnée

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“Everybody was dying, or already dead, or leaving other people, and the year was dying into winter, and the only thing to do was make some noise.” 8 likes
“Fear is always with us: that we are not good enough or strong enough, and so will fail; that we will be hurt. Fear that what we love will be taken from us. Fear of dying, even fear of God, or of no God. But God surprises us by giving us strength to bear what we must; by giving us joy when we think that nothing but sadness is possible.” 2 likes
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