Good to a Fault – Marina Endicott

Title: Good to a Fault
Author: Marina Endicott
ISBN: 1551119293
Pages: 376
Release Date: September 10, 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Review: Mini Book Expo for Bloggers
Publisher: Broadview Press
Rating: 3.5 out 0f 5

From the front flap:

Absorbed in her own failings, Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara against all habit and comfort moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house.

We know what is good, but we don’t do it. In Good to a Fault, Clara decides to give it a try, and then has to cope with the consequences: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she must question her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt? Most shamefully, has she taken over simply because she wants the baby for her own?

What do we owe in this life, and what do we deserve? This compassionate, funny, and fiercely intelligent novel looks at life and death through grocery-store reading glasses: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.

When I first heard about Good to a Fault, it appealed to me because I enjoy books that provoke thought and raise questions. I wanted to know, what were Clary’s motives? Why did she invite an entire family to live with her, when she had no real obligation to them? Was it some sort of charity, perhaps inspired by her religion?

After having read the book, it is clear that there is no real answer to these questions. Clary does something enormously generous, inviting three children and an elderly woman to live with her when she has no obligation towards the family. She did run into their car, which they were living in at the time, so there was some measure of guilt in Clary’s mind. Also, there was a little bit of selfishness thrown in; as the book unfolds, it is clear that Clary wants a family. But what else is there? It is an interesting question, especially when you look at it from the other mother’s perspective. Specifically, what does Lorraine owe? Clary is spending her life savings looking after Lorraine’s kids; though Clary does not expect to be repaid, how does Lorraine accept this charity? Is the family merely using Clary, without considering how much she is giving them?

The characters in Good to a Fault are also extremely well-written. I imagine it is difficult to write a character like Clary and make it believable that she would make this offer to a stranger’s family. But as I was reading the book, I found it completely within Clary’s character to do so. It just seemed natural at the time, though I kept reminding myself, “Wait. She doesn’t owe them anything.”

However, the problem with the book was that it. is. slow. Though it may be a literary device to give the reader a chance to ponder the questions posed in the book, it makes the book a bit unwieldy and much too long. At almost 400 pages, I feel as though it could have been condensed a bit and delivered the same effect to the reader. There is just not enough going on in the novel to keep the reader hooked for the amount of time it takes to finish the book.

Despite the pace of Good to a Fault, I would still recommend it to anyone interested in the questions posed by the novel. I found that an effective way to read and enjoy it is to read it alongside other books. The chapters are short, so there is always a convenient stopping point. When it gets too be too slow, simply put it down and start another novel!

**A note about the main character’s name: In the book, sometimes she is referred to as Clara, other times as Clary. I’m not sure whether this was an editing mistake or if it was deliberate and I somehow missed the explanation. I just wanted to put that out there in case people thought I read the entire book and couldn’t get the main character’s name correct!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I think I’ll skip this one – I don’t like books that plod along.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t find it plodding, although I skipped a fair amount of detail towards the end when Endicott felt it important to contribute more symbolism into the surroundings and actions. And as for the name… yes her name is Clara, but the kids start calling her Clary (for the same reason the little girl becomes Dolly – an endearment or perhaps a contrived familial connection between one another) and that’s what sticks.

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