Summary and book reviews of Good Faith by Jane Smiley

Good Faith

By Jane Smiley

Good Faith
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2003,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: May 2004,
    432 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Jane Smiley brings her extraordinary gifts—comic timing, empathy, emotional wisdom, an ability to deliver slyly on big themes and capture the American spirit—to the seductive, wishful, wistful world of real estate, in which the sport of choice is the mind game. Her funny and moving new novel is about what happens when the American Dream morphs into a seven-figure American Fantasy.

Joe Stratford is someone you like at once. He makes an honest living helping nice people buy and sell nice houses. His not-very-amicable divorce is finally settled, and he’s ready to begin again. It’s 1982. He is pretty happy, pretty satisfied. But a different era has dawned; Joe’s new friend, Marcus Burns from New York, seems to be suggesting that the old rules are ready to be repealed, that now is the time you can get rich quick. Really rich. And Marcus not only knows that everyone is going to get rich, he knows how. Because Marcus just quit a job with the IRS.

But is Joe ready for the kind of success Marcus promises he can deliver? And what’s the real scoop on Salt Key Farm? Is this really the development opportunity of a lifetime?

And then there’s Felicity Ornquist, the lovely, feisty, winning (and married) daughter of Joe’s mentor and business partner. She has finally owned up to her feelings for Joe: she’s just been waiting for him to be available.

The question Joe asks himself, over and over, is, Does he have the gumption? Does he have the smarts and the imagination and the staying power to pay attention—to Marcus and to Felicity—and reap the rewards?

Captures the seductions and illusions that can seize America during our periodic golden ages (every Main Street an El Dorado). To follow Joe as he does deals and is dealt with in this newly liberated world of anything goes is a roller-coaster ride through the fun park of the 1980s. It is Jane Smiley in top form.

CHAPTER ONE

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
“Smashing. . . . Fascinating. . . . Extremely subtle and nuanced. . . . [It has the] power to beguile and enthrall.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Jane Smiley’s Good Faith. In this new novel she brings her extraordinary gifts to the seductive, wishful, wistful world of real estate, in which the sport of choice is a mind game.


Reader's Guide
  1. Having given Joe Stratford the role of narrator, Smiley gives her readers a great deal of access to Joe’s thoughts. What difference does it make that the novel is narrated in first person rather than third? Why ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews
The New Yorker

...Yet 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.

Elle - Daniel Jones

[A] lusty, testosterone-pumped tale, which both revisits Smiley's obsession with infidelity and underlines her remarkable ability to humanize an industry.

Christian Science Monitor - Ron Charles

Everything about Good Faith is in perfect move-in condition...Smiley has invested her best talent in this work, and you can buy it in good faith.

Time - Richard Lacayo

Jane Smiley has produced an irresistible novel of bad manners, a meditation on love and money that Jane Austen might have enjoyed, if she could have handled the sex...

Kirkus Reviews

Smiley nails the Greed Decade with her trademark precision and philosophical bite. Blunt and bold the work of one of America’s best writers.

Library Journal - Starr E. Smith

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.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred and Boxed Review. Brilliant and versatile...this expertly crafted and subtly suspenseful tale is also notable for its exuberant eroticism Smiley's sex scenes, and there are many, are truly ravishing.

Author Blurb Paul Evans
Remarkable...A novelist of astonishing range...one of the most traditional of novelists, one not afraid of making a point, or of ending a story with a well-found moral.

Reader Reviews
Ira

I'll start by saying that I've lover other Jane Smiley books, which made this experience hard to understand. Honestly, if I hadn't been listening to it on tape, I doubt I would have made it past page 100. It is not that it is a bad premise or even a ...   Read More

Joe Blow

After reading the professional critics gushing reviews I have to ask: what book did they read? First let me say that Moo and Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley are two of my favorite books. As soon as I spotted "Good Faith" on the library shelf, I...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Good Faith, try these:

  • Back When We Were Grownups jacket

    Back When We Were Grownups

    by Anne Tyler

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Rebecca, a fifty-three-year-old grandmother, is caught unawares by the question of who she really is. How she answers it--how she tries to recover her girlhood self, that dignified grownup she had once been--is the story told in this beguiling, funny, and deeply moving novel.

  • Disobedience jacket

    Disobedience

    by Jane Hamilton

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    With her inimitable grace and compassion, Jane Hamilton has created a novel full of gentle humor and rich insights into the nature of love and the deep, mysterious bonds that hold families together.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes

Books with similar themes


Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  163The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.