Summary and book reviews of Good Faith by Jane Smiley

Good Faith

by Jane Smiley

Good Faith
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2004, 432 pages

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Book Summary

In her funny and moving new novel Smiley brings her extraordinary gifts, comic timing, empathy and emotional wisdom, to the seductive, wishful, wistful world of real estate, in which the sport of choice is the mind game.

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era has dawned; Joe’s new friend, Marcus Burns from New York, seems to be suggesting that the old rules are ready to be repealed, that now is the time you can get rich quick.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 ...
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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

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