A book about 1980s real estate boondoggles. It could have been interesting. It wasn't.
Jane Smiley's writing is very good (she is a Pulitzer prize winner), and even though I was bored listening to this audiobook, waiting for something interesting to happen (nothing really does, until the very end, and what does happen is inevitable), I noted the difference between a real Writer, a literary Writer, a Writer who has mastered her craft, and one who's passably good, who can tell a tale, but has neither complete mastery of prose nor of characterization and plotting. Jane Smiley does; all of her characters are completely, totally real, acting like completely real, believable, complicated people in a story that is completely real and believable.
The problem with believable real-life stories and real-life people is that they're boring. Between Good Faith
and some cheesy zombie apocalypse written by a hack, I'm afraid that while Good Faith
might earn you more literary karma points for reading it, the zombie apocalypse is definitely more fun to read.
Part of the problem is the protagonist: Joe Stratford is the very definition of an average Joe. He's a realtor who sells nice houses to nice people and he's a nice guy. Okay, he's also having an affair with a married woman, but nobody's perfect. He gets caught up in the real estate fever of the early 80s, sweet-talked into a partnership by a former IRS agent who believes rules were meant to be creatively reinterpreted. So a bunch of people get greedy and stupid and you can see the disaster coming a mile away, but there's hardly any drama because Joe is just such a swell, ordinary fellow, he hardly gets worked up about anything. We get a lot of internal monologues and a fair number of sex scenes and a ton of details about real estate and S&Ls.
For Smiley's skill as a writer, I am giving this book 3 stars, though really there have been 2-star books that I enjoyed no less. It might have just been that this particular story did not interest me. I will probably try one of her other novels, someday, but I'll be more choosy about the one I try.