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.
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.
on January 17, 2013
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.
on January 24, 2013
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. More than a few times I wondered where Ann Leary was going to take her story and I enjoyed how it flowed. But more than that, I really loved Hildy's character. She's not always easy to love, although you understand more and more just why that is, but she's tremendously memorable, and I found myself completely engaged in her story.
This is a really well-written book that is sometimes moving, sometimes funny, and completely worth reading.
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.
on January 15, 2013
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.
Hildy Good, descended from Goodwife Good hanged for a witch in Salem, has never felt too comfortable in her skin. She is a realtor in a pricey North Shore town in Massachesetts. We meet her right after her "inquisition- oh excuse me, intervention which grown daughters and families have staged. And she has returned from Hazeldon two years ago. And now she only drinks alone. And never drives drunk, but a couple of times. And no one knows. And in fact that intervention had been drummed up.
She knows the ghosts in every home. "I walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions.". In fact, Hildy is psychic, which she achieves reading the tells in a person's face, just like her doctor friend Peter.
This book is an excellent well documented account of life within addiction and denial, but it is not a book about addiction. It is a book about Hildy, and that is a difficult trick to pull off. I am tremendously impressed and hope you pick it up.
on October 31, 2014
Very Depressing book!
I did not enjoy this book at all. Just about every character in this book is sad. The characters are suicidal, have specials needs and run away from home, commit adultery, and are alcoholic. The book is about how all these sad characters interact with each other and how their behaviors affect everyone around them. And not in a good way. I was not impressed and I had great things about this book.
The Good House is well written and filled with thoroughly developed characters that people a New England landscape that is lovingly detailed. This is one of those books that I have a difficult time assigning a star rating because even though I can say many great things about it, I really didn't like it. It was not an enjoyable experience due to a narrative that seemed to meander about aimlessly, mired down in too many issues, all awash in Hildy Good's fondness for wine and her self absorbed ruminations on the nature of her role in this small town.
I have spent most of my life in the company of alcoholics, and I found Hildy to be totally believable. Her dialogue, her relationships and her actions were all typical of a woman with a severe drinking problem. I think her story could have been a lot more compelling, but the author's almost laconic style of writing and lack of direction robbed it of any sense of urgency or drama. I almost gave this a three star rating simply because I did keep reading. At about half way through this novel I wanted to give up out of sheer boredom, but I stuck with it and was rewarded with an ending that finally brought a few things into focus. It wasn't enough to save this book for me. It's an unusually vivid snapshot of New England life and an authentic if somewhat lazy look at the effects of alcoholism on an individual and her family.
While I would be interested in reading other books by this author, I will not be recommending this one. I acknowledge that part of this may be personal bias. I no longer find the antics of alcoholics to be funny or even interesting, only tiresome and sad. In the end, that may be the best description for this novel.
on March 10, 2013
I know that is not the desired effect of the book, but it's a testament to what a great writer Ann Leary is (I read this without any idea she was married to the actor, fwiw). Hildy Good narrates this story, and in some respects it's about her and in others it's about the McAllisters, to whom she sold the house of the title (though the title could, I suppose refer to one or two others).
This is NOT a book "about" alcoholism-- I wouldn't have been interested to pick it up. But it is a fascinating look into the head of someone with that problem. She's much more than just that, though.
Hildy we come to realize is very persuasive and not altogether a reliable witness about herself, which is fascinating. Although she's spent time in rehab, she is in denial about having a problem with alcohol, and her rapturous descriptions of how wine makes her feel at the end of a day are utterly persuasive. And at first she does seem more relaxed and more fun when she's had a few.
Fascinating atmosphere too-- Hildy is descended from a Salem witch, and the book is set in a small Massachusetts town.Rebecca McAllister, the wealthy woman who buys a large house with her husband, has a touch of magic in her. I kept expecting a little more magic, but there's a spooky feeling throughout.
One part of the book didn't ring true-- SPOILER-- when Rebecca's lover is worried she'll ruin his career if she says they had an affair. In fact, if he wasn't really treating her and the affair began afterwards, it's not an ethics violation. So the tragedy really didn't need to happen. That kind of factual thing usually bugs me much more, but in this case the book really is much more about Hildy.
Despite Hildy's confessional tone, there are lots of ways in which she's not on to herself, and we as the reader understand more than she does. I loved her burgeoning relationship with her high school flame and where that went. Overall I thought everybody was well drawn and observed and would definitely read another book by Ann Leary!