GOOD TO A FAULT

Marina Endicott

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 nearing her twentieth year as a claims adjuster at a local insurance firm. Driving to the bank during her lunch hour, she crashes into a sharp left turn, taking the Gage family in the other car with her.

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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 nearing her twentieth year as a claims adjuster at a local insurance firm. Driving to the bank during her lunch hour, she crashes into a sharp left turn, taking the Gage family in the other car with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara decides to do the right thing. She moves Lorraine’s three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house—and then has to cope with the consequences of practical goodness: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love.

What, exactly, does it mean to be good? What do we owe each other in this life, and what do we deserve? Good to a Fault is an ultimately joyful book that digs deep, with leavening humor, into questions of morality, class, and social responsibility. Marina Endicott looks at life and death through the compassionate, humane lens of a born novelist: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance in between.

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  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • March 2011
  • 400 Pages
  • 9780061825903

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$14.99

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About Marina Endicott

Marina Endicott was born in Golden, British Columbia, and grew up in Nova Scotia and Toronto. She worked as an actor and director in Toronto before going to London, England, where she began to write fiction. In 1984 she went west to Saskatoon, and worked as a director and dramaturge. She ran the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre for many years before going farther west with Peter Ormshaw, a journalist and poet, on his first posting with the RCMP to Mayerthorpe, Alberta. They eventually married and have two children, Will and Rachel.

Praise

“You’ll find abundant variations on the accidental family in fiction and in life, but the one Endicott selects for the childless, parentless, partnerless Clara is peerless-and literal. . . . Although Lorraine’s illness casts its shadow over everything, it’s the quieter introspective dramas, provided by Endicott’s skillful rotation among the characters’ points of view, that hold your attention. . . . John Updike once said the Pym’s ‘Excellent Women’ was ‘a startling reminder that solitude may be chosen, and that a lively, full novel can be constructed entirely within the precincts of that regressive virtue, feminine patience.’ And so it can.”—Mary Jo Murphy, New York Times Book Review

“Probing the moral and emotional minefield of heroic Samaritan acts, Endicott’s enchanting and poignant novel of compassion run amok handles provocative issues with a deft and winsome touch.”
—Carol Haggas, Booklist (starred review)

“A graceful and deeply satisfying novel.”— Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal

“A brilliantly balanced and engrossing work about illness, charity, and the very tenuous nature of goodness. Fans of contemporary fiction exploring the dangers of complacency and how domestic upheaval can lead to personal growth will enjoy; think Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, and Anita Shreve. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.”
—Jenn B. Stidham, Library Journal

Discussion Questions

“None of the words in church made sense to her. The Creed—what part of that could she say she believed? Resurrection of the body, life everlasting, not those… She thought of her mother and father falling to shreds in their graves, and then, sharply, of Lorraine.”

Throughout Good to a Fault, there seems to be a tension between faith, or religious sensibility, and the more institutionalized religion of church ritual and scripture. Do you think the novel moves towards reconciliation between the two? How do you think attitudes toward faith and religion have changed in the twenty-first century?

Good to a Fault is told from a number of very different points of view. What is the effect of telling the story from a range of perspectives rather than from a single point of view?

Aside from a literal collision, what does the collision between Clary’s car and the Dart represent?  What differences are immediately apparent between Clary and the Gages?

What does Dolly get out of her wanderings throughout the neighborhood? What do books (whether stolen or bought) and reading offer her?

As time passes, Clary is alternately “worn out with all this eventful life” and increasingly dedicated to taking care of the Gage children. What is Clary’s motivation in keeping the children?  How does that motivation change or develop throughout the book?

What is Clary’s initial reaction when Lorraine unexpectedly recovers? Why does Lorraine cut Clary out of the equation so suddenly?

Good to a Fault is peppered with quotations from poets—Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dylan Thomas, in particular, figure prominently. How does their inclusion in the narrative enhance the book?

How do you define the concept of home?  How has Good to a Fault altered that concept?