Marina Endicotts novel, Good to a Fault, was shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize.
Margaret Atwood, who was on the Giller Prize jury, remarked that “There’s heartbreak, there’s joy, there are parts where you cry–and it’s very high-quality writing.”
From the book:
To give herself a clear mind, or else to delay, Clara went to church before going to the hospital. She slipped in late to the early service and did not genuflect, but crossed herself quickly. She always felt slightly snooty crossing herself, but her mother had ingrained it in her. All this ritual was so complicated: whether to sand for communion or kneel, stand or kneel for prayer, fold hands or adopt the charismatic pose, swaying and open-palmed. Many of the older women, surprisingly, swayed.
It was all superstition, anyway. Just sitting there, being there, was the essential thing, she had come to believe. But of course she could be wrong.
The Gospel was Mary choosing the better part, to let the dishes go and listen to Jesus talking in the living room–a reading that always annoyed Clara, although she’d never considered herself a Martha. What would happen if she let go of the dishes now? It would be all right, because Mrs. Zenko would do them for her, popping in and out of the kitchen with her bright glance catching everything, tidy little ears priced for the conversation while she got supper cleared up without a wasted movement or a sigh or a fuss. Occupied with Mrs. Zenko’s holiness, Clara had trouble keeping her mind on the sermon. Paul Tippett was telling an anecdote. She wondered if he made them up, since so many were apropos, but that was ungenerous. Anyone life is full of meaning. She should have phoned to thank him for visiting Lorraine.
He was contrasting Mary and Martha with last week’s Gospel on the Good Samaritan–she hadn’t consciously heard a word of it, as she sat fretting and deciding.
“A man no one would think of as saintly, a dirty Samaritan, took practical action to save the life of someone left to die by the side of the road. Today, Jesus scolds Martha for her brand of practicality, and insists that spiritual discussion is more important than putting the supper on. Why is practicality praised in one case, and in the other, reviled? I don’t think that’s too strong a word, reviled, for the way we call women Marthas with an edge of contempt, because they are busy in the kitchen feeding the masses. Jesus himself was good at feeding the masses. And staying under budget.”
Paul seemed so pleased with this loaves-and-fishes nudge that Clara couldn’t help laughing. She hoped she hadn’t been too loud.
“The Samaritan acts in a moment of genuine crisis, when no one can see his goodness. But the flavour of self-importance in Martha’s actions, and her peevishness toward her sister, may be uncomfortably familiar to us when we think of our own acts of goodness and how we look for recognition of our work.”