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The Little Shadows revolves around three sisters in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. We follow the lives of all three in turn: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, who is sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, a year younger; and the youngest sister, joyous headstrong sprite Bella, who is thirteen. The girls, overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama, are forced to make their living as a singing act after the untimely death of their father. They begin with little besides youth and hope, but Marina Endicott’s genius is to show how the three girls slowly and steadily evolve into true artists even as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters—some of them charming charlatans, some of them unpredictable eccentrics, and some of them just ordinary-seeming humans with magical gifts.
Using her gorgeous prose and extraordinary insight, Endicott lures us onto the brightly lit stage and then into the little shadows that lurk behind the curtain, and reveals how the art of vaudeville—in all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow—echoes the art of life itself.
Absorbed in her own failings, Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara—against all habit and comfort—moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house.
We know what is good, but we don’t do it. In Good to a Fault, Clara decides to give it a try, and then has to cope with the consequences: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she must question her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt? Most shamefully, has she taken over simply because she wants the baby for her own?
What do we owe in this life, and what do we deserve? This compassionate, funny, and fiercely intelligent novel looks at life and death through grocery-store reading glasses: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.