Good House is Good Recovery Fiction

by Sharleen Jonsson

And speaking of drunkenness (see my last post, Looking for Some Great Recovery Lit?), I just finished The Good House, by Ann Leary.

thegoodhouseProtagonist 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.)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron May 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I enjoyed this book, thought it was hilarious. The author is married to the actor Denis Leary (that is, if Im thinking of the right person), so perhaps that’s how some of the “funny” rubbed off.
It’s an interesting mix, the biting humor and the serious sub-text (alcoholism). Don’t you think?

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Sharleen Jonsson May 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I do think it’s an intriguing mix. In fact, I think the best comic fiction has a deadly serious sub-text, don’t you?
Thanks for taking the time to comment. (And yes, the author is married to the comic…as far as I know.)

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MaggieB May 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Don’t know if you know, but the author is married to comedian Denis Leary. Therefore, it seems that being married to a comedian is helpful for writing a funny novel? Should we all be so lucky.

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Sharleen Jonsson May 30, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Yes, you’re the second person to point that out…perhaps the trick to writing well is marrying well? Thanks for commenting!

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