Title: The Good House
Author: Ann Leary
No. of Pages: 304
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 15 January 2013
Bottom Line: Intense and funny and horrifying
“Hildy Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of a small community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. And she’s good at lots of things, too. A successful real-estate broker, mother, and grandmother, her days are full. But her nights have become lonely ever since her daughters, convinced their mother was drinking too much, sent her off to rehab. Now she’s in recovery—more or less.
Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy finds a friend in Rebecca McAllister, one of the town’s wealthy newcomers. Rebecca is grateful for the friendship and Hildy feels like a person of the world again, as she and Rebecca escape their worries with some harmless gossip and a bottle of wine by the fire—just one of their secrets.
But Rebecca is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell, an old friend who shares a complicated history with Hildy, tries to warn her away from Rebecca, Hildy attempts to protect her friend from a potential scandal. Soon, however, Hildy is busy trying to protect her own reputation. When a cluster of secrets becomes dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one person threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn.
The Good House, by Ann Leary, is funny, poignant, and terrifying. A classic New England tale that lays bare the secrets of one little town, this spirited novel will stay with you long after the story has ended.”
Thoughts: 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.