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The Good House: A Novel by Ann Leary

The Good House: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Ann Leary

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Title:The Good House: A Novel
Authors:Ann Leary
Info:St. Martin's Press (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, ebook

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The Good House by Ann Leary



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The Good House tells the story of Hildy Good, a real-estate agent in a small town in Massachusetts, who has taken "just a little" too much of a liking to the no-longer-occasional glass of alcohol. Hildy thinks she has things under control -- but as she gets involved with the life of a new neighbour, she gets ample opportunity to examine her own.

I loved this book. It manages to be both thoughtful and uplifting at the same time -- you despair of Hildy as she passes out in her basement but you still never cease to root for her. After all, many of the little lies she tells herself (and, by extension, the reader) are not so unlike the ones you may have told yourself at some point or another.

My audiobook included an interview with the author in which she explained that Hildy was never meant to be the main character of the book but just ended up stealing the show, and I have no trouble believing that. Speaking of which, I strongly recommend the audiobook version of this novel -- the narrator, Mary Beth Hurt, really makes Hildy come to life.
  littlegreycloud | Apr 5, 2014 |
“A layered and complex portrait of a woman struggling with addiction, in a town where no secret stays secret for long.”—J. Courtney Sullivan ( )
  amanaceerdh | Mar 5, 2014 |
The basics: Hildy Good is a real estate agent near Salem, Massachusetts. She went to rehab at the behest of her two grown daughters, but she's not an alcoholic.

My thoughts: The Good House is one of those books many were quietly raving about most of 2013, but yet it never seemed to really get much attention. I'm pretty sure I checked it out of the library in January when it came out and finally read it in the final days of 2013 (I know, I am a library book hoarder.) I was instantly entranced with this novel. Hildy is a dynamic narrator. I'm tempted to call her an unreliable narrator, but I'm not convinced that's completely accurate. Hildy's unreliability comes in two forms: first, she is not always forthcoming with the reader. She doesn't necessarily lie, but she carefully chooses how to share and when. In reality, this behavior is what we all do. We don't lead with the faults others find with us that we don't quite believe, yet when Hildy first acknowledge such a trait, my first thought was suspicion.

The second trait of unreliability has as much to do with Hildy's honesty with herself as it does with her honesty with the reader. While linked with the first, it becomes indicative of so much more. In a pinch, I would probably call Hildy unreliable, but it's this very trait, and Leary's unconventional use of it, that makes Hildy so fascinating to read about. As much as I enjoyed seeing other characters, Hildy stole this book for me.

The verdict: The Good House captivated me as I read. Hildy was a fascinating character, and I loved seeing her world through her eyes, or at least as much as she would show. As much as this novel is Hildy's story, Leary smartly builds up the town and its motley crew of characters to be just as dynamic.

Rating: 4 out of 5 ( )
  nomadreader | Jan 29, 2014 |
Ann Leary's The Good House is an entertaining, emotionally compelling novel that I would also count as a work of literary art of considerable depth and sophistication -- and what's more, unique social significance. I would recommend this novel widely without reservation, with an exception being any reader who wishes to avoid a fictional treatment of the reality of addiction for personal reasons of any kind (the narrator/protagonist's struggles with alcohol abuse are central to the novel's plot and meaning, as I read it).

That said, I would encourage readers who are not totally comfortable with the prospect of an intimate, insider's look at the reality of addiction to try engaging with this work. I believe exposure to a three-dimensional, often likable and engaging character who struggles with self-control of her alcohol use and related behavior is a critically valuable experience this novel is uniquely equipped to provide. This novel's treatment of addiction is anything but simple and explicitly conclusive, and Leary's rendering of the troubled heroine is profoundly humane and, I think, not without affection. In sum, I think this novel offers an excellent illustration of addiction as a problem people (rather than "addicts" or some other explicitly "other" category of person) struggle with despite and because of themselves...and for neither of those causes and both. An understanding of addiction of this kind can make one a better human being better equipped to help in real-life struggles faced by others. That's what my experience in life has shown anyway.

I loved this novel -- poignant, refreshing and yes, often funny.

BTW, I received a free copy of this book through a giveaway contest on Goodreads.
( )
  kara.shamy | Jan 9, 2014 |
Hildy is a tough character. On the one hand, she is witty and talented. She is caring, knowledgeable and not afraid of hard work. When she is sober, she is an admirable lady that one would be proud to have as a mother or friend. Unfortunately, it is her neediness that is painful to witness because she is the type of woman who thrives in the company of others. Watching her slide downward into old patterns, the very same patterns that forced her daughters to send her rehab in the first place, is bittersweet, especially when it is so easily avoidable. At the same time, one wants to condemn her because she is ultimately responsible for her own actions, and her continuous justifications for her behavior become disturbing.

All of Hildy’s problems stem from her loneliness. Her embarrassment over past actions, her loneliness, her struggling business, her friendship with Rebecca and strained relationships with the rest of her hometown are all caused by her drinking. The Good House excels at showing how detrimental alcoholism is to every facet of a person’s life. It also shows just how easy it is for one to slip into a cycle of self-pity caused by drinking caused by self-pity and so forth. Hildy does not intend for her behavior to cause so many problems, but they do because she is stuck in a pattern from which she cannot break free. That she is an ultimately good person with plenty to offer society and no ill will towards others strikes a chord with readers because she makes it easy to imagine something similar happening to other loved ones.

The Good House is simultaneously intense and funny and horrifying. Hildy means well, but her denial about the true extent of her alcoholism is terrifying. Her downward spiral into the world of blackouts and lost time is made even scarier by her inability to recognize her harmful behavior and her willingness to get behind the wheel. At the same time, the fact that Hildy seeks solace from her loneliness and her work-related problems via a bottle is something to which a large number of readers can relate. One cannot condone her behavior but can understand how such extreme behavior starts. Meanwhile, her burgeoning relationship with Frank is hilariously sweet. The Good House proves that one is never too old to find love or to start again as many times as necessary.
  jmchshannon | Dec 26, 2013 |
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I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions.
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"The Good House tells the story of Hildy Good, who lives in a small town on Boston's North Shore. Hildy is a successful real-estate broker, good neighbor, mother, and grandmother. She's also a raging alcoholic. Hildy's family held an intervention for her about a year before this story takes place--"if they invite you over for dinner, and it's not a major holiday," she advises "run for your life"--and now she feels lonely and unjustly persecuted. She has also fooled herself into thinking that moderation is the key to her drinking problem. As if battling her demons wasn't enough to keep her busy, Hildy soon finds herself embroiled in the underbelly of her New England town, a craggy little place that harbors secrets. There's a scandal, some mysticism, babies, old houses, drinking, and desire--and a love story between two craggy sixty-somethings that's as real and sexy as you get. An exceptional novel that is at turns hilarious and sobering, The Good House asks the question: What will it take to keep Hildy Good from drinking? For good"--… (more)

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