The Good House by Ann Leary

I like Greg Kinnear. I love Audrey Hepburn. What do these two marvelous actors have in common? Sabrina. Greg Kinnear starred as David in a remake of the classic Audrey Hepburn film. In the movie, David sits on and shatters two champagne flutes, requiring several stitches. On the day of said suture removal, he decides it’s worth celebrating. Thus ‘Stitch Removal Day’ was born. Obviously, such a celebration requires drinks. Why am I telling you this? Two weeks ago, I needed several stitches across the back of my neck (picture turning your stitched neck – fun, no?). I’ve of course been a model patient. Not once has my cursing approached Deadwood standards, despite the fact that I consider my minor ordeal to be inspiration for an ode to the use of profanity. Today is my stitch removal day. And yes, it is most definitely a day worth celebrating. So in honor of my suture removal AND of the witty Hildy (see review below), I’m having a drink. Feel free to join me. (I almost managed to tie the two topics together in the end, however loosely).

From Goodreads: The Good House tells the story of Hildy Good, who lives in a small town on Boston’s North Shore. Hildy is a successful real-estate broker, good neighbor, mother, and grandmother. She’s also a raging alcoholic. Hildy’s family held an intervention for her about a year before this story takes place—“if they invite you over for dinner, and it’s not a major holiday,” she advises “run for your life”—and now she feels lonely and unjustly persecuted. She has also fooled herself into thinking that moderation is the key to her drinking problem.

As if battling her demons wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Hildy soon finds herself embroiled in the underbelly of her New England town, a craggy little place that harbors secrets. There’s a scandal, some mysticism, babies, old houses, drinking, and desire—and a love story between two craggy sixty-somethings that’s as real and sexy as you get.


I should start by saying I am a sucker for anything described as irreverent. I’m easy like that. So when I saw the following quote, I knew I’d have to read The Good House*.

A riveting novel in which an engaging and wildly irreverent woman is in complete denial—about herself, her drinking, and her love for a man she’s known all her life. (Kate Christensen)

If you had asked me if I thought alcoholism could be funny, I would have said no. Then I went and read Ann Leary’s The Good House. It almost made me change my mind. Hildy Good is an alcoholic (according to some), but she is also wickedly funny. However, her humor lies more in who she is than what she drinks.

The Good House satisfies several requirements I have in a novel: setting, characters, and story. The novel is set in Wendover, MA. Coincidentally (or not), I recently pointed out that I would like to read more books set in New England. Novels like this one are exactly why. Wendover is a quirky little seaside village filled with its share of characters, from townies to millionaires.

Hildy, the most successful businesswoman in Wendover, is thought to be an alcoholic and a witch, though claims to be neither. But if there is one thing an alcoholic can do well, it is make excuses for having a drink (at least at the time, the next morning in the midst of a stellar hangover is a different story). Hildy is no exception; however she is also the narrator of this little foray into small town life. Despite the reader knowing she’s not trustworthy, she’s admittedly a bit more fun the further she falls off the wagon. Soon the secrets she’s keeping encourage her to drink even more (alone in her mouse infested cellar) and things begin to snowball. Blackmail, illicit affairs, a gay ex-husband, new love with an old flame, family ties, and small town secrets all intersect in this New England version of a black comedy. Fans of Richard Russo (or at least this fan) will enjoy an intimate, if unreliable look at life through Hildy’s jaundice colored glasses.

The Good House is a character driven novel, so if you prefer a plot based novel – this one’s not for you. If I have to have a complaint, it’s that the novel is written in the first person (not a bad thing, just not my preference). Point of view aside, humor meets harsh reality in this irreverent look at a non-recovering alcoholic navigating the murky waters of small town Massachusetts. The Good House is a paragon of New England fiction. 4/5. *St. Martin’s Press provided me with a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.


As I’m having tiny pieces of string yanked through the tiny holes in my neck, I’ll likely be imagining tequila. Or gin.


11 thoughts on “The Good House by Ann Leary

  1. Sounds fun! Book (I adore the cover) AND the margarita. Or gin. The only way I really like gin is with cranberry juice – sounds awful right? but it WORKS. Don’t ask me why/how. We call the concoction “the OFF-Cape Codder” since we live just off Cape. Garnish with a lime. 😀 Hope the stitches removal process goes smoothly.


    1. If it doesn’t, I’ve got a pair of surgical scissors here at home. One way or another, they’re coming out (sadly I think I may be getting more). I’ve never thought about gin and cranberry juice, I’ve only had the traditional Cape Cod. However, there has only been one time in my life where I had far, FAR too much to drink and it was vodka – so the gin and cranberry juice doesn’t sound half bad (as compared to the thought of consuming the alternative).


  2. Great review, I am definitely going to check this one out. Also, I clicked your link and died over “I live in Colorado now where everyone hugs and expresses feelings, it’s all very odd.” As a native New Englander, I UNDERSTAND! 🙂 Luckily I moved to New York, where people are even less huggy and feelings-y.


    1. Yes – another former New Englander (you and my maybe two other New England readers understood, I’m glad I’m not the only one)! I hope you enjoy it. It’s fun without making light of alcoholism.


  3. First off I ADORE Sabrine and Audrey Hepburn..and that is probably my favorite of her films! Secondly sorry you had to have stitches in the first place..and thirdly enjoy your Tequila! Great review it sounds like a book my Sis would love! 🙂


    1. Thanks. After today, I sincerely need a drink. Though I did get my stitches in my neck out, not everything went quite as planned (if that’s possible). There’s not much tequila can’t cure in the short term. Of course, I think the same thing about a good book or movie (or television show – and come to think of it I’m already planning on borrowing/stealing your Dr. Who Christmas tree idea for next December).


      1. Are you a Dr. Who fan as well? YAY! You need to chat with my friend Bookish Whimsy..she is a huge Jane Eyre fan and she loves Dr. Who as well!:) I love meeting people with common interests!


  4. This sounds like a book my mom would love. Thanks. I think she’ll be getting a copy in the mail. 🙂

    Sorry about the stitches. Hope today is the day they come out! A drink is a good way to celebrate.


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