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Good to a Fault

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  3,453 ratings  ·  373 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, 372 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Freehand Books
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3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,453 ratings  ·  373 reviews

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Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 hers
Kara Hansen
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four very solid stars. Fault: weakness or failing.
Clara Purdy is driving along one day minding her own business when she hits the vehicle occupied by the Gage family. Chaos ensues, adults, children and a baby come clamouring out of the car, everyone heads to the hospital. Clara at first thinks she is free to go once everyone gets the all clear. No serious injuries. But there is a twist, and she somehow feels a moral obligation to take this family in temporarily.
I have to admit, these character
Oct 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 25, 2009 rated it liked it
"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
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a perfect book Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott is! It reminded me of books I read back during my university years when I took my Canadian Lit course; books like Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell or Why Shoot the Teacher by Max Braithwaite. It's a gentle, loving, caring story that had me smiling and crying at different moments.

Clara Purdy lives in Saskatchewan and while driving home gets into an accident with a young family. Clara lives alone, her mother having passed away and is in
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
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
Dec 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Linda Tiessen-Wiebe
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-read
This book was surprisingly good. I was in intrigued by the premise: a woman feels guilty for crashing into a down-and-out family and maybe gets more than she bargains for. The characters were very real, from the guilt-ridden, unlived life of Clara to the school-of-hard-knocks wisdom of Lorraine, to her 11-year-old daughter. The back of the books asks "when is sacrifice merely selfishness?" Endicott does a good job of exploring this question from all the different vantage points and gives us a go ...more
Stephanie Kimball
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked it due to the subject matter. How far would one go to do the right thing or make oneself feel better about a bad situation?
I can see how this would lead to a great discussion for a book club. SOOO many questions to consider.

I was at a disadvantage not knowing my Canada geography. I had to look up Saskatoon (beautiful city with the river). I also wasn't knowledgeable about any of the book/poem references.

Good to a Fault is not a page turner, but a slower paced story of people doing the b
Ann Douglas
A sweet, character-rich novel. I really enjoyed this one.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-are
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
Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Marina Endicott's novel Good to a Fault is one of those rare pieces of fiction that makes compelling drama out of the stuff of everyday life while avoiding sentimentality and remaining true to its author's literary ambitions. Forty something Clara Purdy's uneventful and unfulfilling life is thrown into disarray in the wake of a car accident, but not in the way we expect. Clara, alone in her car, is shaken up but not hurt, and neither are the six members of the Gage family, who occupy the other c ...more
Steven Langdon
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: super
"Also nominated for the 2008 Giller Prize, this novel is a searching, hard-edged exploration of social relationships in a prairie city. Clara Purdy's mother has died, and her 45-year-old daughter is confronting how bleak her life is, when a traffic accident and a young mother's serious cancer combine to land her with three young children, their aged grandmother and an aggressively unhinged husband. The extraordinary manner in which Clara copes requires some suspension of belief from the reader, ...more
Jul 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Profoundly human is certainly the phrase to describe this novel, which is probably why it is so uncomfortable to read. It is human, both in thought and in action. It's something that is completely realistic and the emotions and reasons behind them are uncomfortably familiar.

Clara hits a car that the Gage family is living in as well as driving. At the hospital the mother, Lorraine, is diagnosed with cancer. She takes in three kids and a husband, who later bolts, into her home while Lorraine under
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Renee Layberry
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was the perfect book to end 2015 and begin 2016 with. I was absorbed right from the start and couldn't put it down (often reading until 3 a.m.!) even though it is by no means a fast-paced story. The emotional undercurrents are weighty, complex, elusive, urgent, and unpredictable—as they are in "real" life. The characters and dialogue feel authentic; I recognize myself (or someone I know and love) in each main character—even the less likeable ones—and appreciate how their respective stories, ...more
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Bec Yule
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
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.
Ruth Seeley
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
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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
“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.” 9 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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