This is my second time reading Good To A Fault. I rarely reread books, but I remembered enjoying
Endicott starts her novel in the midst of chaos – a car accident between a single woman, Clara Purdy, and a family living in their car, Clayton, Lorraine, Darlene, Trevor, baby Pearce and their mother-in-law, Mrs. Pell. Through the guilt of responsibility for the accident, Clara takes on more and more responsibility for the Gage family. So much so, that she has Clayton, the children and Mrs. Pell move into her home while Lorraine begins cancer treatment.
Clara, after a brief and unsuccessful marriage, has been single most of her life, most recently moving in with her parents to nurse them through their last days. She comes to find meaning and purpose through taking care of the Gage family, and grows particularly close to the children.
Having never been a parent before, Endicott describes the searing pain and inexpressible joy of Clara’s new life as a parent with exquisite insight. A few examples:
“Instead she went into the bedroom and picked up the little baby, the new one, the morning dew. The baby quieted immediately, holding her hand, his other arm clinging to Clara’s neck, his body conforming to hers, his head warm against Clara’s face.
Mine, she thought.” P. 31
“It was impossible, being with these children. After four days of it Clara was exhausted by their clatter and the grime that attended them, and their easy assumption that she would do everything for them.” P. 44
“The headlights were not working properly. When she parked at the drugstore she saw the car reflected in the glass front: her headlight was burnt out. The complication of getting the headlight replaced was so overwhelming that she had to lean against the car door for a moment before she could get the children out to come trooping in with her, parkas over their pajamas.” P. 241
“Her head hurt with the effort of not thinking how stupid she had been to take all these people on, how bad she had proven to be at all this. But there was no way to get out of it.” P. 215
The book is set in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where I lived for ten years. Endicott also lived in Saskatoon and the details in her descriptions of the setting put me right back in the City of Bridges. Also, I’m pretty sure I met the same curmudgeonly used book store owner she describes on p. 131. “He thought she was rich because Clary looked after them now. It made her laugh, secretly, and he saw that, and yelled at her some more: “You don’t read! You haven’t read a book in your life. Bookstores are going out of business all over – you think you can sit and watch TV and that’s all it takes. You walk around in a bookstore and by osmosis, you’ve read something!”
My favourite chapter was 27, called Wellwater. Here’s a taste:
“The fresh jug of ice water dewed, pearled, on the rolling table. The water-women must have been around.
‘May I have a drink of your water?’ Paul asked.
‘How can you, a priest, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’”
So whimsical and yet it so perfectly shows this odd relationship between a woman in a hospital being visited by a priest she never would have known if she hadn’t been sick.I try not to buy books. I use the library as much as possible, but this book is worth buying. You need to read it more than once. It’s just incredibly well-written and has so much to say about the complications of trying to be good.
I can't help quoting this summary by Bill Robertson in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix "As Jane Austen taught readers two hundred years ago, a few families in a small community are just the thing to write about."