Louise Reads: The Good House by Ann Leary

I happily dove into into The Good House. I’ve been a fan of Ann Leary (wife of comedian/actor Denis Leary) since her 2004 memoir, An Innocent, a Broad.  Her 2009 fiction debut, Outtakes From a Marriage, was equally enjoyable., and her blog, with peeks into her life with her family and menagerie of animals  in rural Connecticut, is a lot of fun to read. I am happy to report The Good House did not disappoint.

Leary’s second novel is told from the point of view of Hildy Good: 60-year-old realtor extraordinaire, alcoholic-in-denial, and lifelong resident of the quaint seaside town of Wendover, MA. Having lived more than half of my life on Massachusetts’ North Shore (where fictional Wendover is located), I was pleasantly surprised by how authentic the author’s portrayal of the area felt, the town is almost another character in the story.  As Wendover’s most successful businesswoman, Hildy knows how to work a room, bend the truth, and keep a secret. And there are secrets aplenty in Wendover. Soon, those secrets have Hildy drinking again (albeit alone, at home), and things spiral out of control from there.

As the novel progresses the story takes a dark turn, yet this book made me laugh out loud several times. Hildy’s voice has a dry wit that softens the sometimes difficult subject matter. Despite the fact that she gets less and less reliable as the novel progresses, Hildy can be quite a bit of fun (at first) when she’s off the wagon.  When she enlists a lonely newcomer in town as a covert drinking buddy, however, it sets off a series of events with dire consequences.

The Good House is a fantastic read, especially if you are partial to character-driven novels. The character portrayals in the book are so vivid you truly feel like you know this small town and its quirky but relatable inhabitants. Hildy is a fascinating, flawed character, and an interesting choice as narrator.  If you are an audiobook listener, I highly recommend the audio version read by Mary Beth Hurt – she was perfection as the voice of Hildy. On a related note, it’s been announced that The Good House is being adapted for the screen with Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro set to star.  Not too shabby!

A recent review by The Examiner said of The Good House, “…humor meets harsh reality in this irreverent look at a non-recovering alcoholic navigating the murky waters of small-town Massachusetts. The Good House is a paragon of New England Fiction.” I would have to agree, it was wicked good – it gets 4 ½ out of 5 stars from me.

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