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Good To a Fault    by Marina Endicott order for
Good To a Fault
by Marina Endicott
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Clara Purdy works as a claims adjuster for an insurance company, so when she is involved in an auto accident, she knows that no fault rules apply. Nevertheless, when her car stops moving, she believes that she was to blame. Even though she is in a state of shock, she isn't hurt, and she is able to focus on the other car. She is horrified to see a large family emerge from the car she hit, everyone apparently covered in blood.

There are three children, one of them a baby being held by his mother, as well as an old woman, and an angry man, who shouts at her in a threatening manner. When she finds out that they are homeless and have been living in the car - which doesn't look as though it would be reparable - she feels so guilty that she invites the family to stay with her. She has lived in the same house since she was a child, alone since her mother died two years before of cancer. It turns out that no one was really hurt. What appeared to be blood was actually cherry juice and pulp, which the family had been snacking on at the time of the accident.

They all go to the hospital to be checked out, though, and no one leaves the hospital immediately because the mother of the children, Lorraine Gage, is found to be seriously ill. The whole family hangs around the hospital for a couple of days waiting to find out what's wrong with her. When Clara offers her house as temporary quarters during Lorraine's treatment, her life shifts abruptly from quiet spinsterhood to acting the surrogate mother. She then finds herself in charge of the children and the grandmother after the father abruptly disappears soon after finding out about his wife's cancer.

Clara is in her early forties, and although she was married briefly when she was young, she has never had children. Darlene Gage is eleven, Trevor is five, and the baby, Pearce, is eight months old. The grandmother turns out to be no help at all. Clara rises to the challenge, though, throwing herself wholeheartedly into not only taking care of her new boarders, but also visiting Lorraine, and trying to encourage her to be brave. As time passes, Clara finds herself caring for the children as though they were her own, especially the baby, and complications ensue. Lorraine's brother arrives, the minister from her church helps out, and the next door neighbor takes on babysitting duties whenever needed. So little by little Clara finds that, far from being alone in her goodness, she seems to have inspired others, as well.

I loved Good to a Fault. The characters were warmly drawn and easy to love or thoroughly dislike. Clara is good, but does have her faults, although for a long time no one can see them but Clara. In addition to Clara, we get to know Darlene in her own words, as well as Lorraine and the minister, and each is an integral part of the story. There are just enough surprises to keep the reader on her toes, and the plot twists and turns in a realistic way. It was hard to put the book down until every last page had been read and savored.

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