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A Perfectly Good Family: A Novel Paperback – July 3, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061239496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061239496
  • ASIN: 0061239496
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Lionel Shriver: 'One of the most magnetically compelling writers working today. Witty, caustic and worldly' WALL STREET JOURNAL 'A brilliant writer. She has a strong, clear and strangely seductive voice. The characters are strong ... so moving it will make you want to gasp or cry' SUNDAY TIMES 'Shriver is an incisive social satirist with a clear grip on the ironies of our contemporary age' LA Times

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The New Republic, the National Book Award finalist So Much for That, the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World, and the Orange Prize winner We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Lionel Shriver is a good story teller.
Kindle Customer
It was rather boring and tedious and the characters were selfish, annoying, and unlikable.
Ms. Jared L. Greer
This is the second book I have read by her and look forward to my third.
Saskia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jan Genovese on August 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If anyone has ever captured the total ambivalence most siblings (who are honest) experience, it's Lionel Shriver. I did not find this book to be nearly as compelling as her astounding masterpiece "We Need To Talk About Kevin" but it has its great paragraphs, certainly. A very good friend of mine (going through adult sibling madness, as I did--I no longer speak to my two siblings) read this book after I did, and we both agreed: WE DO NOT LIKE THESE PEOPLE. We don't like them at all. This caused me to put the book down at one point in an irritated way and debate whether to continue. Almost exactly at that point, however, it got pretty absorbing--Shriver picked up her always amazing thread and I must say, the ending truly stunned me. Be warned: these people as individuals are not endearing and their various behaviors border on repugnant sometimes, but Shriver always constructs completely believeable people, and in this context, she has not failed. I'm still so struck by "Kevin" that maybe I could not do justice to this book, but it does have its own merit. I mean, when three adult siblings fight over their dead parents' house, it can't be boring.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When so many modern novels are about dysfunctional families, why read another one? There are several reasons. Lionel Shriver brings a unique wit to her storytelling. Her tale is fresh and funny. She gives her characters depth but isn't oppressive about it.

The "perfectly good family" in question consists of Corlis, Truman, and Mordecai McCrea, three siblings who must come together to deal with their inheritance after their mother's death. The will leaves each child a quarter of the estate (consisting mostly of the family home) with the remaining quarter going to the ACLU. Truman (the youngest, who has always lived with his parents, even after his marriage) feels entitled to keep the house for himself. Mordecai (the oldest, pushing 40, with three broken marriages and a drinking problem) wants to sell the place and use his share of the money to revive his cash-poor business. Corlis (who was invited to leave her flat in London after her two male roommates discovered that she was splitting her affections between them) has decided to stay in North Carolina but finds herself in the middle of the dispute between the brothers, neither of whom can buy out the other's interest without her help.

A Perfectly Good Family was first published in Great Britain in 1996. Shriver's sixth novel mixes comedy with drama, but there isn't much dramatic tension in the conflict between the children. The drama increases toward the end, as the deadline for selling or refinancing draws near (the ACLU wants its money and isn't inclined to wait any longer), but the mood remains lighthearted. The reader has little reason to invest in either brother; in their separate ways, they are equally childish.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. Begody on June 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lionel Shriver's writing has made me not want to waste my time reading mediocre literature. I don't think she wants me to spend less on books, but she's definitely to blame for my snobbery.

Keep it up, Lionel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Jared L. Greer on July 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I didn't like this one. It was rather boring and tedious and the characters were selfish, annoying, and unlikable.

Usually I like Shriver's extremely detailed descriptions and insight into the character's thoughts and motives, but these characters were pretentious, irritating, arrogant, and uninteresting so it was really boring. I only finished it coz I usually really like her writing so I was hoping it would get better. It did, but barely. It was a nice, tidy ending, but not worth the rest of the tedium.

I'll continue to read Shriver because I do like her writing and story lines, but I wouldn't recommend this one. At all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen Lea Hansen on December 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lionel Shriver has been a huge discovery for me. She is a ridiculously gifted writer and I look forward to working my way through her novels.

Shriver's "A Perfectly Good Family" was as near to a perfect novel as I have ever read. It is the story of three very different siblings who inherit their family home, a very grand southern colonial manor. A bulk of the story takes place in the home and it is very dialogue heavy. As I was reading, I kept thinking that it would really translate well into a stage play. Shriver does a fantastic job at writing tension and cutting remarks.

The novel is told from the point of view of the middle child and only girl, Corlis. Corlis spends much of the book analyzing her two brothers and dead parents, yet is very unaware of her own culpability in the family dynamic. There was one big thing about Corlis' narrative that really rang true for me, the way she described her parents. She lashed out at them and picked on their short comings. I often find myself doing the same thing regarding my mom, who passed away three years ago. I think it comes from a place of hurt and frustrating, but it can come across as callous. I'm not sure if I would have understood this part of Corlis, if I had not had personal experience.

My only negative was how the book ended. I felt like it was wrapped up a bit too neatly, although I am not sure of a better way to have ended it.
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More About the Author

Lionel Shriver is a novelist whose previous books include Orange Prize-winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, and Ordinary Decent Criminals.

She is widely published as a journalist, writing features, columns, op-eds, and book reviews for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist, Marie Claire, and many other publications.

She is frequently interviewed on television, radio, and in print media. She lives in London and Brooklyn, NY.

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