Protagonist Hildy Good lives on prime property just outside a coastal town north of Boston. She is the descendant of Sarah Good, one of the first women hanged for witchcraft in nearby Salem. Hildy is a successful real estate agent and she knows her business: she’s selling to the wealthy who want (and can afford the rising price of) a piece of bucolic, seaside country near a quaint township. She also knows a lot about the people in her town: “Alcoholics, hoarders, binge eaters, addicts, sexual deviants, philanderers, depressives — you name it, I can see it all in the worn edges of their nests.” There’s a lot of biting humor in this novel, but there’s also a lot of insight about real estate, desire, aging and alcohol.
I began to fall under the spell of this story when I read the scene of 60-year-old Hilda stripping down for a midnight skinny dip with Molly and Babs, her “sweet, sweet bitches.” It’s delightful to see a woman of a certain age feel free in her body—even if she has to be nearly blackout drunk to do so—and later on there are scenes of this same 60-year-old having sex. I love a yarn about a realistic, mature woman with real desires, forced to face her demons.
If I must quibble: early on in the novel, Leary gives the reader the impression that witchcraft will play a significant role, when in fact she lets this theme whither on the vine, more or less. But that’s just a quibble and there is much here to savor, including a funny reunion with a teenage sweetheart.
I’m not going to tell you whether or not Hildy gives up the bottle – you’ll find out when you read the book yourself.
(For more on the subject of women of a certain age: In Praise of Older Women – And Their Stories.)