Sunday, November 2, 2014
The Good House by Ann Leary
Published January 2013 by St. Martin's Press
Source: I bought this one
How can you prove you're not an alcoholic?
It's like trying to prove you're not a witch.
Hildy Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of an historic community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. Hildy is a descendant of one of the witches hung in nearby Salem, and is believed, by some, to have inherited psychic gifts. Not true, of course; she’s just good at reading people. Hildy is good at lots of things. 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, staged an intervention and sent her off to rehab. Now she’s in recovery—more or less.
Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy needs a friend. She finds one in Rebecca McCallister, a beautiful young mother and one of the town’s wealthy newcomers. Rebecca feels out-of-step in her new surroundings and 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 not everyone takes to Rebecca, who is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell, an eccentric local 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 cover her own tracks and protect her reputation. When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn.
Almost from the first review I read of this one, I knew I was going to read it and almost equally certain that I was going to like it. The question was just "when?" When I was looking for choices for my book club this fall, I knew this one would make a good choice. I was right - about liking it and about it being a good book club choice.
If I had an actual list of great characters (instead of the imaginary one in my head), you'd see Hildy Good on that list. In her private thoughts, Hildy reminds me somewhat of Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout's title character in her Pulitzer prize-winning novel). There's a dark side to Hildy, and it doesn't entirely have to do with her alcoholism. Unlike Olive, there's also a warmth and vulnerability to Hildy. You can't help but feel sorry for her - raised by a mother who suffered from severe depression, convinced by her father that the person that she loves isn't good enough for her, and discovering that her husband is, after fathering two daughters, gay.
Lonely, Hildy latches on to Rebecca as a friend who doesn't know her history with alcohol. In fact, there's so much about Rebecca that impresses Hildy, that Hildy may have had a bit of a crush on Rebecca. No surprise then, that Hildy was not to be warned off of Rebecca, particularly with her increasing alcohol intake making her brain a little foggy. Leary builds a feeling of tension that feels much like a mystery novel and it works marvelously. I couldn't put this book down.
There's a lot to discuss with The Good House. One of our Bookworms confirmed, from her own experience with alcoholism in her family, that Leary's depiction of this disease was very realistic. We talked about the impact of newbies in a small town, particularly when those newbies bring a wealth that can negatively effect those who have spent their lives in a town. We talked almost as much about Rebecca and her false front as we did about Hildy. I highly recommend this book for book clubs.
Oh heck, I highly recommend this book for everyone!