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era has dawned; Joe’s new friend, Marcus Burns from New York, seems to be suggesting that the old rules are ready to be repealed, that now is the time you can get rich quick.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?
Good Faith 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.
"Smiley nails the Greed Decade with her trademark precision and philosophical bite....Blunt and bold: the work of one of America's best writers."
"Smiley has a famous affection for Dickens, and this is her first novel to be published since her short biography of Dickens appeared last year. Like Dickens, she has the rare ability to split the difference between emotional 'interiority' and social 'expertise.' So it's curious that GOOD FAITH itself attempts no such compromise: If Smiley's two preoccupations are waging an ongoing battle in her head, then social context has won the latest round in a rout. What results is a solid, smart, keen-eyed novel that nonetheless lacks some of the strengths readers associate most closely with Jane Smiley....Smiley's gifts have always been as much intellectual as emotional. At her best she has a Zenlike understanding of human motivation and its paradoxes....And she does not flinch when the dramatic situation she has written herself into calls for a socio-economic exegesis--even political exegesis--rather than empathy. This is the way a good journalist's intelligence works, or a good historian's, and it is the kind of intelligence that forms the backbone of Good Faith."
Christopher Caldwell, Slate, 05/06/2003