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The Good House: A Novel Hardcover – January 15, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition first Printing edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250015545
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250015549
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (659 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Lee Woodruff Interviews Ann Leary

Lee Woodruff
Ann Leary

A note from Lee Woodruff on Ann Leary: I became an Ann Leary fan with her memoir An Innocent, A Broad. And like any fan, by the time I finally met her, I was mewling like a bucktoothed school girl at her first spin the bottle sleepover. She didn't disappoint. I loved Ann's first two books. I mean, the woman can write. She can really write, dammit. And in her second novel, The Good House, she weaves a tale that is engrossing, fresh and very, very real. These could be the people in your town, warts and all. I was eager to interview Ann and hear how this book had come together. And I'm happy to share some of these insights with you here.

Lee Woodruff: What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

Ann Leary: My narrator was a bit of a handful. The Good House is told from the point of view of Hildy Good, who may or may not be an alcoholic. Her daughters think she is, but she is quite confident that she is not. So my biggest challenge was to make Hildy reliable enough to have the reader on her side and actually rooting for her, yet at the same time, question whether she's being completely honest.

LW: Is it fun or arduous to choose character names? And how do you?

AL: I love choosing names for my characters. This novel is set in the fictitious town of Wendover, Massachusetts, which is on Boston's North Shore, near Salem, Essex, and Ipswich. There are still people in that area who have ancestors who were involved in the famous Salem witch trials, so I chose to make my main character a descendent of a real witch, whose name was Sarah Good. I liked the name Hildy because it sounds like a witch's name. Frank Getchell, a fellow townie with whom Hildy shares a complicated past, was just always Frank, in my mind. I've never met a Frank I didn't like. Rebecca McAllister is the beautiful newcomer. I thought her name sounded lyrical with all the syllables, and there is a sort of flowing grace about Rebecca, at least Hildy believes there is when she first meets her. Then it was fun coming up with some of the nicknames "Sleepy Haskell" etc. Names people got when they were kids and that have stuck with them all their lives.

LW: OK--let's get past it–-the dreaded fiction author question--how much of you is in Hildy?

AL: I've written another novel and a memoir and have learned that when you write non-fiction, people always want to know what you made up. And when you write fiction, people always want to know how much of it is true. But the great thing about writing fiction is you can write about things that you wish were true and that's what I did when I wrote Hildy's character.

There is quite a bit of Hildy in me, as I have had my own personal struggles with alcoholism. But we are also very different. Hildy is in her sixties, and a real New England Yankee--wry, opinionated somewhat strident and I've always admired her type. I'd like to be a tough old bird. I'd like to not always be trying to please everybody.

LW: Whether or not we want to admit it, we all have our individual and sometimes weird writing rituals. Will you divulge yours?

AL: I try to write every day and I always write in the morning. We have a lot of animals–-dogs, cats, horses–-and I get up between 5 and 6 everyday to tend to them and then I return to my bed-desk and write. I write on my bed with my four dogs and there are papers and snacks and cold cups of coffee all around me. Really, it's disgusting. Think Grey Gardens. But that's how I write best, in a semi-prone position surrounded by snoring dogs.

From Booklist

Wendover’s top-flight real-estate agent, Hildy Good, was always the life of the party. Not only could she drink everyone under the table; she’d also capitalize on her heritage as the descendant of one of Salem’s persecuted witches by performing convincing mind-reading tricks that wowed with their accuracy. While Hildy admits the mentalist bit is a sham, the drinking’s the real thing, one that forces her family to stage an intervention that lands her in rehab. Alas, the treatment doesn’t take. Once out, Hildy drinks alone and in secret, until newcomer Rebecca McAllister comes to town. A kindred spirit burdened by an unhappy marriage, Rebecca shares her wine and her secrets about her affair with local psychologist Peter Newbold, insidiously pulling Hildy into her Fatal Attraction–like obsession. As Hildy recoils from Rebecca’s delusional fantasies, her drinking escalates to dangerous levels. Leary’s powerfully perceptive and smartly nuanced portrait of the perils of alcoholism is enhanced by her spot-on depiction of staid New England village life and the redemption to be found in traditions and community. --Carol Haggas

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Customer Reviews

Great characters, interesting story, very well written.
evelyn
If you have ever loved an alcoholic, or ever known one as a friend or coworker, then you will recognize much truth in the author's storytelling.
Virginia Campbell
It grabs your attention from the very first page and the intensity builds until the end.
Patricia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

185 of 197 people found the following review helpful By Patricia TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved this book! It grabs your attention from the very first page and the intensity builds until the end. The main character - Hildy - is quite a character, feisty, honest, outspoken and with a profound insight into other people. Her voice is so real that you feel like you know her. It is the story of her community - a seaside community in New England where she has lived her whole life. She is a real estate broker, mother and grandmother, divorced (amicably) from her gay husband and struggling with an alcohol problem. And she is hilarious. You get to know the whole community through her eyes - their loves, failures, tragedies, hates and problems. The suspense builds and everything cascades to an intensely powerful crescendo by the end of the book. Breathtaking. I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend this book and I want to read much more by this author, Ann Leary.
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121 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The front cover blurb says that "The Good House" by Ann Leary, is "wickedly funny" but I didn't find it to be so. Yes, it has some laughs; the very unreliable narrator, Hildy Good, has many amusing comments about living in a small New England town. Hildy knows everything about everyone because she's lived there all her life, and also because she's the town's most successful realtor.

But what lies underneath Hildy's portrayal of her life is dark and dangerous and she is trying very hard not to let others see it; in fact, she's refusing to see it herself. This darker part of the story is somber and serious and not a bit funny.

So if you want a funny lark of a read, I don't think this is for you. If you are up for something with more serious underpinnings, then be sure to give "The Good House" a try.
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69 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Mom of Sons VINE VOICE on January 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oh, how happy it made me to love this book all the way through. I was instantly drawn in by the beginnings of this smart, deeply felt and interesting novel. The narration by the 60-year-old real estate agent--who is pretending to be recovering from alcoholism in order to keep her adult daughters off her back, who knows everybody's business in her small Yankee New England town because she has helped everyone buy and sell their houses for decades, who feels every bit of her age and past regrets and is now staring down her future with fear that she anesthetizes with nightly secret descents into a wine bottle--the narration is immediately gripping.

But a lot of books are great in the opening pages, and eventually the author, what...what exactly happens, it happens so often I wish I knew, but so often the author starts off with a bang and then the story bogs down, the author loses the reins, starts padding stuff with unnecessary description, switching focus from one character to another, and basically everything that was crisp in the beginning gets limp and lost, and I put those novels aside, disappointed.

That does not happen here. Ms. Leary has a tight hold of the reins of her story and her characters all the way through, and if occasionally she goes off a little bit too much for my taste in describing someone's back story, well, that is okay, because very quickly we get back to the tension and reality in the story.

No more plot points here, no spoilers from me. Read it for yourself and enjoy the ride. It's kind of a Peyton Place for 2013, only smarter and deeper.

Recommendation: Absolutely, two thumbs up, loved it.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By valentine03 VINE VOICE on January 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow.

I read this book in two good stretches reluctantly separated by sleep. The voice of Hildy Good is real and captivating, with stories that are like the ocean - beautiful on the surface but deep enough to swallow you whole, leaving nothing behind, not even a note. Leary's writing is subtle, masterful, elegant. This is the kind of book that reminds me why I became a reader in the first place.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By terry lembeck on January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very funny book but at the same time a must read for those who have had some contact with alcoholism in their family. Hildy Good's denial of her alcoholism is classic. It is a must read for anyone who has had to deal with this problem. Leary really understand the dynamics of living in a small New England town and its changing demographics. I could not put it down.

Bill, Sebastian FL.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on January 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought this was a pretty terrific book. It had quirky (but not annoying) characters, an engaging and intriguing plot, and great writing. Who could ask for more?

Hildy Good has lived her whole life in Wendover, Massachusetts, an historic town on Boston's North Shore. She's proud of the fact that one of her ancestors, Sarah Good, was one of the first women hanged for witchcraft during the Salem trials, and many women in her family have claimed to have some type of psychic gift. Some people say Hildy can read minds, which isn't true--she's just really good at reading people and predicting behavior.

Except her own. This successful real estate broker has a bit of a drinking problem. Well, maybe more than a bit, as a year ago, her two daughters staged an intervention and sent her to rehab. Since then, she's always felt a little awkward at parties where everyone drinks--more because she feels people are staring at her than she's actually fighting the desire to drink. But there's nothing wrong with an occasional glass of wine at night when she's by herself, right? Right?

The problem about living in a small town is that you know everyone and everyone knows you. So when Hildy strikes up a friendship with Rebecca McCallister, a wealthy but lonely wife and mother, she sees this as a wonderful complement to her life. Until she realizes Rebecca's life is a little more complex than Hildy is interested in knowing. Meanwhile, Hildy is vacillating about her attraction to the least likely of men in town, and doesn't know what to do about that.

This book really has a little of everything. There's intrigue, illicit love, emotional discovery, missing children, and some great plot twists.
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