Sunday , February 25 2024
This novel treats its 60 year old female main character with great respect and provides a well-paced and engrossing story as well as a nuanced and believable view of alcoholism.

Book Review: ‘The Good House’ by Ann Leary

The Good House is an unusual book from the very beginning. The narrator and main character is Hildy Good, who is 60 years old. And while Hildy has many layers and complicated issues, she is never pathetic and she is fiercely independent. When is the last time you read a book like that?

the good HouseHildy is a townie who has spent her whole life in a small community on Boston’s North Shore. She knows everyone and everybody in town, and although she tries to hide it even from herself, she cares deeply about most of them. She is a very successful businesswoman with grown children and a grandchild she adores. She has an unconventional good friend named Frank who might even be more. But Hildy is also a more or less functioning alcoholic, and, like the community itself, under the first obvious layer lie darker and more dangerous layers.

This is one of the best fictional depictions of addiction I have ever read, never becoming maudlin or making Hildy seem diminished or one-dimensional as she struggles with denial while trying to help her friends deal with their own problems and issues and live up to the image she wants her children and community to believe in. She lives by rigorous rules to keep even her friends from looking too closely, and the only time she allows herself to be herself is when she drinks, usually alone and only at her house.

Another element of Hildy is her possible psychic abilities, which she denies, claiming that she is only very good at reading people. She is a direct descendent of a woman who was hanged as a witch, and her aunt was a professional psychic. Hildy claims to have learned from watching her aunt how to know an uncanny amount of information about people. But is that all there is to it?

This perfectly paced book will surprise you and draw you in from beginning to end. You will learn not only about Hildy but about her community and its inhabitants in a very personal way. There’s not an off or bad note in the entire plot. And as for Hildy, she is not always nice. But you will always care about her and at the end of the book you will be glad you made her acquaintance.

The book is highly recommended.

About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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