Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review: "The Good House"

The Good HouseThe Good House by Ann Leary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


"The Good House" is narrated by one Hildy Good, a real estate broker who is descended from one of the Salem witches. Following an intervention staged by her adult daughters, Hildy has recently returned from rehab as the novel begins. Publicly, she no longer drinks, but after discovering a cache of wine in the cellar of her home, she makes close friends with it, getting (she thinks) quietly smashed most evenings.

As Hildy perfects denial and rationalization to an art form, we find that she is not the only one in Wendover, Massachusetts, who doesn't want to give up her jones. There's new arrival Rebecca (my favorite character in the book), who feels more affinity for her horses than she does for her blowhard of a husband. She goes to local headshrinker Peter for help and he helps her right into an affair. He thinks better of it eventually, but he should have known that some women just will not be ignored. That's amore, dude.

Add to these, a grimy ex-hippie fix-it guy, the local alpha girl with her developmentally disabled son who relates best to the family cat, and an array of New England nut jobs and characters, and you've got a wicked interesting stew, to use the local parlance.

This is not to say that this is some light-hearted romp. Although it is very often funny, it's also, by turns, poignant, heart-breaking, and always well-observed and true. It's not easy to watch Hildy lose her grip as her personal gyroscope swings in wider and ever more drunken loops. She may be deluding herself (if not most of the people around her) and she may be a fantastically unreliable narrator, but "The Good House" paints such a vivid and absorbing portrait of one New England town and its inhabitants that I absolutely and enthusiastically recommend it. I came within a whisker of giving this five stars, and the only reason I didn't was purely subjective: it's almost *too* real. I'm a recovering person myself, and some of this brought it all back a little too vividly for (my own) comfort!



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9 comments:

hedgewitch said...

You always make books I'd never pick up on my own sound interesting, Shay. If you ever read one where the women are in hoop skirts, I promise to check it out. ;_)

Sioux said...

Shay--Your line about the "personal gyroscope" is a gem. This book sounds like one I would enjoy--even if there are no hoop-skirted women...

Gina said...

This is a great review of a book I really, really lied. I loved Hildy as funny and sad as she was with her struggles. I could actually see this all happening. I contemplated five stars too, on Goodreads, though ultimately gave it four.

Gina said...

*liked

ellen abbott said...

always looking for a good recommend. I'll look for this one on my next trip to the library.

Mama Zen said...

I'm definitely picking this one up!

Poet Laundry said...

This does sound good!

Ella said...

I am reading this now! I'm homesick for those New England charmers, with their wicked humor~

Daryl said...

did you know Ann is married to Denis Leary?