The Good House – Review

May 18, 2013

The Good House by Ann Leary is well written and presents an interesting narrative. Throughout my reading, I really couldn’t decide how I felt about Hildy, the protagonist/narrator and I think that may have detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book.

She comes across as incredibly self-involved at times and is a very unreliable narrator, which was sometimes very frustrating and other times just plain perplexing. Her skewed perspective did, on occasion add to the suspense and drama though.

I think her inner turmoil played up against the idyllic Northeastern backdrop was interesting, but sometimes I couldn’t get over the “allow me to reveal the seedy underbelly of classic Northeastern life”-ness and the bitter, self pity in the narrator’s voice. Then again, I think that was often the point. We all have those thoughts and feelings, just maybe not to that extent.

Toward the end, I really wish that there had been more of an explanation about what happened with Rebecca. Or maybe I wish that Leary had taken it in a different direction? I actually feel this way about a few aspects of the book — things built into such a crescendo, and then just fizzled. I don’t know if I’d call them missed opportunities, but there were stories that were developing into something interesting, but then took a very mundane route.

I get the feeling that Leary was trying to portray a certain slice of human experience and wanted to stay on the side of authenticity and therefore ended up sacrificing some aspects of story lines that even some of her characters might have branded sensationalism. But some things in life are sensational. Some people are cray, others are mean-spirited or nice, and some people really can change. I’m curious what Leary set out to write and how it compares to The Good House.

I’m afraid it may not have come across in this review, but I actually did like this book. I think. I don’t think I liked many of the characters, but as I say almost every time I read a Salinger book, you don’t have to like the characters to like the book. Leary is an effective storyteller, and her writing (usually) transcends my dislike of the characters.


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