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Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

Good to a Fault (2008)

by Marina Endicott

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In a moment of distraction, spinster Clara Purdy crashes her car into one which contains a homeless family – in fact, the car was their home. When mother Lorraine is taken to hospital, she is diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Feeling somewhat responsible for their current predicament, Clara takes the rest of the family (three children, including a ten-month-old & their paternal grandmother.)

Clara is a good person—good to a fault, it seems. Clara invites the whole family to live with her while Lorraine has medical treatment. The husband/father takes off soon after with no notice, leaving Clara with granny & the kids. There are emotional entanglements and other consequences of Clara’s practical goodness.

From Amazon: “What, exactly, does it mean to be good? When is sacrifice merely selfishness? What do we owe in this life and what do we deserve?”

I find Marina Endicott’s novels to be consistently enjoyable. Thank you to Trish at Desktop Retreat who reminded that this remained unread. Recommended.

4½ stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Mar 21, 2018 |
Another from the Canadian pile, thanks to Miriam Unruh.

I loved this book about a woman who takes in a family after crashing into their car and the mother is dosicvered to have cancer. My only quibble is that we never had quite enough back story about Clara's parents or former marriage and the local priest was a little too good to be true. But I found the story heartbreakingly moving and the open-ended resolution just right. Why do we do the things we do? What motivates us to do right? Is there selfishness in acts of altruism and is that so wrong? And what are we owed for our goodness? This novel posits all the right questions. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
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 might have been right. After all, there’s a whole media industry devoted to gossip: the cult of celebrity proves that most people would rather read about bad behaviour and scandal; it’s not easy to make the everyday niceness of people interesting reading.

Even harder is to make exceptional goodness interesting reading, but Endicott has achieved it. Her heroine, Clara Purdy, is a very good person. When she has a car accident with an itinerant family in crisis, she takes them into her home because the mother is diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Three children (one of them a baby); a light-fingered husband who had abused her after the accident; a poisonous old mother-in-law; and eventually also the children’s uncle. From a quiet and prudent life lived alone after the harrowing deaths of her parents. Clara suddenly finds herself with a full house, responsibility for the children, constant demands on her purse, and an obligation to visit the mother in hospital.

And she copes with all this with remarkable grace. It’s a convincing portrait, because the reader is privy to her moments of exasperation, doubt, anxiety about money and extreme tiredness, but her journey of self-discovery is notable for the way she so rarely shows her inner thoughts to anyone. She responds philosophically to remarkable provocation from the husband Clayton and Mrs Purdy the mother-in-law; she puts up with the chaos that children bring with amazing patience. She looks like a saint, but she cops criticism from the church ladies because they suspect her motives, and she has to act covertly because of the risk that social services will intervene. It’s a surprisingly diverting plot – and it raises such interesting questions…

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2010/07/29/good-to-a-fault-by-marina-endicott/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Aug 15, 2016 |
3.5 stars

When Clara's car crashes into a family, there are only minor injuries, but once at the hospital, the mother, Lorraine, is found to have cancer. The family was living out of their car as they were moving from Winnipeg to Fort McMurray, Alberta so the father, Clayton, can find work. With Lorraine now in the hospital in Saskatoon, they have no place to stay. Clara feels so badly that she takes in the entire family (Clayton, 3 kids (Dolly, Trevor and baby Pearce), and Clayton's mother). Clara also visits Lorraine at the hospital, as Clayton disappears shortly thereafter.

I quite liked this. I kept waffling between 3.5 stars (good) and 4 stars, but went with the lower of the two as it didn't quite hit 4 stars overall for me. It's an unusual situation, but I was certainly wondering what would happen in the end... would Lorraine get better? If she does - or doesn't - what happens later, as Clara grows more and more fond of the children? And what about Clayton? I'm glad I finally read the book and I already have another book by the same author I'm planning to read (though it's historical fiction rather than contemporary). ( )
  LibraryCin | May 26, 2014 |
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 car. But Lorraine Gage, the young mother of Dolly, Trevor and Pearce, and wife of Clayton, is diagnosed with advanced lymphoma after being examined at the hospital. Clara, a claims adjuster who knows a thing or two about liability--long divorced and living by herself in her parents' house after the recent death of her mother--and motivated by a potent mix of guilt and loneliness, invites the itinerant Gage family to temporarily share her home. Soon after this Clayton takes off, who knows where, and Clara is left with the children and selfish, contrary Mrs. Pell, Clayton's mother. What ensues is not high drama but an awakening of sorts. Clara has no choice but to rouse herself from her middle-age stupor and forge emotional connections when Lorraine's recovery takes the better part of a year and she is the sole provider for three children. Along the way various others barge into Clara's life, and after discovering the joy and heartbreak of depending on and providing for other people, once the children are gone Clara finds herself unable to return to the tentative aloofness and crushing solitude of her old life. This is an unpretentious novel that shows us what it is like to place oneself at risk emotionally, to be vulnerable and to live in the world. Endicott's characters experience joy and sorrow and disappointment, they argue and make up, they connect and drift apart. This is real life, masterfully rendered. Essential reading. ( )
1 vote icolford | Jan 23, 2013 |
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For Peter
You that are in love and charity
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Thinking about herself and the state of her soul, Clara Purdy drove to the bank one hot Friday in July. The other car came from nowhere...
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After Clara Purdy gets into a car crash, the bruises of the mother in the other car turn out to be late-stage cancer, prompting Clara to take in the mother's three children and their grandmother while the mother fights to beat her disease.

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