1. The pudding-skin metaphor at the top of the second page. I think pudding-skins are far more versatile than most writers give them credit for and I overuse metaphors with them myself to try to gain them notoriety. Endicott does so brilliantly: I’d have loved it even if I didn’t have a thing for pudding-skins in literary writing. (Yes, this is a win-some, lose-some situation: one does inevitably find oneself craving pudding for an indeterminate time period following.)
2. The title: I have a thing for books that consider “being good”. Two that immediately come to mind are Bonnie Burnard’s A Good House (1999) and Carol Shields’ Unless (2002). I especially love Shields’ word ‘goodish’. I kinda want to add an ‘ish to the cover of Marina Endicott’s novel along with the other markings on the wall.
3. Good to a Fault won the 2008 Giller Prize, a prize that’s responsible for having introduced me to many of my ATF (All-time-fave) writers.
The Giller’s 1996 shortlist included Ann-Marie MacDonald — this was years before Oprah discovered Fall on Your Knees and introduced it to millions — and Anne Michaels (for Fugitive Pieces) *and* Gail Anderson-Dargatz (for The Cure for Death by Lightning).
Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night (absolutely wonderful) was nominated the next year, and several other writers were brought to my attention via this shortlist as well: Shyam Selvadurai (for Funny Boy in 1994), Rohinton Mistry (for A Fine Balance in 1995) Elizabeth Hay (for A Student of Weather in 2000) and Michael Redhill (for Martin Sloane in 2001).
[There are lots of my other favourite writers whose works appear on the Giller lists, too, but these are the ones that I distinctly remember pursuing simply because they were short-listed and had some prize-publicity, works I might not have discovered otherwise, or at least not for some time.]
4. Related to the third point, the Elizabeth Hay quote that adorns the cover, which I might have disregarded if I didn’t so enjoy her own writing: “A wise and searching novel about the fine line between being useful and being used.” It’s an intriguing comment, but even if weren’t, the simple fact that Elizabeth Hay blurbed would have piqued my interest.
5. In trying to decide which of the Canada Reads books to read second, I leafed through and spotted this passage (I’m usually very spoiler-phobic, but I also have a radar that kicks in when a bookstore appears in a novel), and while I love most bookstores that appear in novels, this one brought a smile out for sure:
“It was not a normal store, it was an old house half-turned into a store. The walls where the living room and dining room would have been were lined with teetering shelves of musty, crammed old books, red and brown and blue. The kitchen cupboards still hung, full to bursting, with books shoving open the doors. Everything was dusty, and there were no customers. (123)
So yes, I was predisposed to like Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault, and, that’s exactly what happened: I liked it. Very much indeed. In fact, I think it will make an appearance on my 2010 Favourites List, where it can snuggle in with Nicolas Dickner’s Nikolski, another book with a fantastic second-hand bookshop.