Marina Endicott’s compelling novel Good to a Fault begins with a bang — two cars collide at an intersection. As the story unfolds, the lives of all those involved are unalterably jolted, too.
The driver at fault is 43-year-old Clara Purdy, who works at a Saskatoon insurance company. Affluent but unfulfilled, she has spent years nursing her dying parents and now finds herself alone.
The other car is home to an impoverished family on its way to Fort McMurray, Alberta, in search of a new start. The mother, Lorraine, the only one who’s injured in the accident, ends up in the hospital.
Feeling that she wants to do what’s right — and also that she’s to blame for the situation — Clara chooses to help not only Lorraine but also her sullen husband, their three children and the grumpy grandmother, Mrs. Pell. Clara’s decision brings chaos and complications into her life, along with powerful new emotions, both rewarding and painful.
I flew right through the book, seamlessly jumping between the narrators and following the story eagerly. It is a quintessentially Canadian novel and I think it has a very good chance to win Canada Reads 2010. The characters feel Canadian without their stories relying on taking place in Canada. I think it has something to do with Clara’s generousity, the children’s love, or even Lorraine’s understanding. Either way, the characters were compelling and pulled me in immediately. I was a little disappointed with the end, but at the same time realize why it was ended that way.
However, the story doesn’t have to be Canadian, so I think a wide range of audiences would enjoy it (and could perhaps be an arguement to vote it off Canada Reads). My only complaint, which is very minor, is the character’s names changing through the book. Darlene became Dolly, which was fine as she said it was her nickname already. But Clara became “Clary” in both dialogue, reference, and personal thoughts. I found this odd because it started as just the kids affectionately nicknaming her.
I picked up this book as part of our Canada Reads book club but unfortunately I’ll be missing the discussion on Sunday January 9th. So I also decided to join in the online Canada Reads Challenge! Two birds with one stone.
Read an excerpt from the publisher, Freehand Books.