Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The Good House by Ann Leary

Hildy Good just got back from rehab at Hazleton. But she's not an alcoholic. She can't be, you see, because she's still the top realtor in the coastal town of Wendover, Mass. She just went because her silly daughters were worried.

It's fascinating to read another book with an unreliable narrator, but this one is in a different way. She's completely convinced herself, in the way addicts usually do, that she doesn't have a problem. So long as she only drinks at home. So long as she only drinks wine. So long as she doesn't drive. All of these rules she, of course, eventually breaks. But some of the more subtle clues about the real state of her addiction were even more interesting.

Along the way, Hildy competes for house listings, befriends new neighbor Rebecca, gets involved with local gossip, starts seeing an old boyfriend again, and things very slowly but eventually spiral out of control. At one point, although I was thoroughly enjoying the book, I was thinking it didn't have much plot. But I just didn't see the plot coming. By the end I could see there was a lot of plot, it just didn't feel like it at the time. It builds quietly until finally, Hildy can't control things anymore and some bad things happen and nearly happen.

The book was cunningly written by someone with either a great deal of experience with addiction or who did a lot of research. Its slow burn is by no means a failing--I loved how the book got into its groove and introduced you to everyone in the small town and gave a great feeling for small town New England life, before amping up the events. It's so well done, it's hard to see how it was done. The author isn't at all show-offy or "look at me" (like a good New Englander!) so there might not be many brilliant turns of phrase, but it's a wonderfully written, brutally honest, and carefully drawn book.

I bought this book at Barnes and Noble.

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