Author Ann Leary has written a funny, touching and true novel about alcoholism. No, keep reading! It’s not soppy. It’s not tragic. It’s not full of I-told-you-so’s and lessons learned. And it’s definitely not a Lifetime movie.
What it is, is this: A wonderful story. Massachusetts real estate agent Hildy Good is the descendant of a Salem witch, and she’s a little bit witchy herself, with the ability to “read” the truth that others can’t hide. She’s also divorced from a man who turned out to be gay (so much for her ability to “read the truth!”), the mother of two grown daughters, and jealous “gammy” of one adorable toddler. She’s also just out of rehab for a drinking problem she doesn’t think she has.
Enter Rebecca McAllister, the beautiful, charismatic, and somewhat-off-her-rocker wife of a uber-rich guy. Shortly after meeting steadfast (and married) local psychiatrist Peter Newbold, they’re in love. But when Peter wises up and calls it quits, Rebecca doesn’t give up quietly.
Meanwhile, Hildy’s pretending she’s still sober while rekindling a long-lost romantic relationship with the badly weathered and decidedly unsuitable garbageman, Frank Getchell. A straight-talker, Frank doesn’t take much baloney from Hildy.
The Good House is written in first person from Hildy’s point of view. She’s a terrific voice, and needless to say, unreliable in the extreme. Of course, one hallmark of alcoholism is the ability to lie to yourself as well as others, and believe it while you’re doing it. The habits of the secret drinker are truly presented, and interviews with Leary make it clear that, sober now, she is drawing on her own experiences.
That she’s been able to transform those experiences into such a warm, witty, and heartfelt novel is remarkable. There’s tragedy and grief, but also hope and joy. Life in a nutshell.
Leary’s previous books include An Innocent, a Broad, a hilarious memoir, and Outtakes from a Marriage, a comic novel. All three: totally worth reading.