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Good Faithby Jane Smiley
"Admittedly, reading Good Faith requires a bit of the titular quality; you need to be willing to entertain the notion that a book in which the characters argue about interest rates and 'the shakeout of the banking system' can be entertaining. It can....As with most of Smiley's novels, the writing is fresh and breezy if not beautiful. And has she yet received the credit she's due for writing terrific sex scenes — earthy, profane, joyful and detailed, but never self-important? Good Faith is rich in them; sex matters a lot to Joe in an entirely believable way, but he doesn't need to get, well, hysterical about it....Good Faith is an inventive and generous investigation into the joys and perils of building something — a house, a trusted local business, a marriage, a community — and well worth the investment." Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon review)
Synopses & Reviews
THIS WOULD BE '82. I was out at the Viceroy with Bobby Baldwin. Bobby Baldwin was my one employee, which made us not quite friends, but we went out to the Viceroy almost every night. My marriage was finished and his hadn't started, so we spent a lot of time together that most everyone else we knew was spending with their families. I didn't mind. My business card had the Viceroy's number in the corner, under "may also be reached at." Buyers called me there. It was a good sign if they wanted to see a house again in what you might call the middle of the night. That meant they couldn't wait till morning. And if they wanted to see it again in the middle of the night--well, I did my best to show it to them. That was the difference between Bobby and me. He always said, "Their motivation needs to be tested, that's what I think. Let 'em wait a little bit."
Bobby was not my brother, but he might as well have been. Sally, his sister, had been my girlfriend in high school for about a year and a half. She was the first person I ever knew who had a phone of her own. She used to call me up and tell me what to do. "Now, Joey," she would say, "tomorrow wear those tan pants you've got, and the blue socks with the clocks on them, and your white shirt, and that green sweater I gave you, and I am going to wear my blue circle skirt with the matching cashmere sweater, and I'll meet you on the steps. We'll look great. Have you done your algebra problems? When you get to number four, the variable is seven, and x equals half of y. If you remember that, then you won't have a problem with it. Did you wash your face yet? Don't forget to use that stuff I bought you. Rub it in clockwise, just a little tiny dab, about the size of the tip of your pencil eraser. Okay?"
I had been short, and now I was tall. I had been skinny and quiet and religious, and now I was good-looking and muscular. It was Sally Baldwin who brought me along, told me what to wear and do and think and say. She was never wrong; she never lost her patience. She created me, and when she was done we broke up in a formal sense, but she kept calling me. She was smart and went off to Smith College, and I was sure she would get everything organized there once and for all. I went to Penn State. In April of my freshman year, Sally was killed in a car accident outside of Boston. I had talked to her two days before. "Now, Joey," she had said, "it's okay to see a woman who is almost thirty, but you don't say that you are dating her, you say that you are seeing her. Seeing is much more sophisticated than dating, and it doesn't lead to marriage."
I went home for the funeral. It was as if the Baldwins had been eviscerated. All they had left were Felicity, Norton, Leslie, and Bobby. That didn't seem like much without Sally to move them along. Betty, their mom, couldn't act of her own free will. The funeral director, Pat Mahoney, had to seat her here and stand her there and remove her from this spot and place her in that spot. Gordon seemed better, almost vigilant in a way, though my mother said he would never recover and maybe he never did. Bobby was ten then, nine years younger than I was. Gordon came up to me afterward and asked me how I was doing. He was concerned, the way you always get at funerals, and I couldn't help telling him that I wasn't doing at all well--I hated college and wa
"Smiley's range as a writer is always surprising....What makes the story beguiling is Smiley's appreciation of the varieties and frailties of human nature. Every character here is fresh and fully dimensional, and anybody who lived through the '80s will recognize them — and maybe themselves." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Smiley?s amusing plot is charged with energy, her sense of time and place is on target, and her research into the ways and means of real estate development is seamlessly integrated....This absorbing book will appeal to a wide variety of readers." Library Journal
"Joe's sense of who he has become is oddly muffled, a quality that infects the novel as a whole — as if the author were unable to decide what, finally, her characters are guilty of, or how hard they deserve to fall." The New Yorker
"There may not be a thousand acres here, but it's still a major piece of literary property. Everything about Good Faith is in perfect move-in condition....It's a manageable size, with just a small collection of expertly drawn characters....Smiley has invested her best talent in this work, and you can buy it in good faith." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
Jane Smiley is the Pulitzer Prize winning
Emerging from an ugly divorce in the early 1980s, real estate salesman Joe Stratford is reluctant to join his friend Marcus in a get-rich-quick scheme and wonders about the advances of a free-spirited married woman. By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres. Reader's Guide available. Reprint. 100,000 first printing.
Greed. Envy. Sex. Property. In her subversively funny and genuinely moving new novel, Jane Smiley nails down several American obsessions with the expertise of a master carpenter.
Forthright, likable Joe Stratford is the kind of local businessman everybody trusts, for good reason. But it’s 1982, and even in Joe’s small town, values are in upheaval: not just property values, either. Enter Marcus Burns, a would-be master of the universe whose years with the IRS have taught him which rules are meant to be broken. Before long he and Joe are new best friends—and partners in an investment venture so complex that no one may ever understand it. Add to this Joe’s roller coaster affair with his mentor’s married daughter. The result is as suspenseful and entertaining as any of Jane Smiley’s fiction.
About the Author
Jane Smiley is the author of many novels, including A Thousand Acres, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Horse Heaven. She lives in Northern California. In 2001, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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