I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions. I remember joking about this one evening with Peter Newbold, the shrink who rents the office upstairs from mine.
“The next time you get a new patient,” I offered, “I’ll sneak to their house for a walk-through. While you jot down notes about their history, dreams, whatever, I’ll shine a flashlight into the attic, open a few cupboards, and have a peek at the bedrooms. Later, when we compare notes, I’ll have the clearer picture of the person’s mental health, guaranteed.” I was teasing the doctor, of course, but I’ve been selling houses since he was in primary school, and I stand by my theory.
I like a house that looks lived in. General wear and tear is a healthy sign; a house that’s too antiseptic speaks as much to me of domestic discord as a house in complete disarray. Alcoholics, hoarders, binge eaters, addicts, sexual deviants, philanderers, depressives—you name it, I can see it all in the worn edges of their nests. You catch the smoky reek of stale scotch and cigarettes despite the desperate abundance of vanilla-scented candles. The animal stench oozes up between the floorboards, even though the cat lady and her minions were removed months before. The marital bedroom that’s become his,
the cluttered guest room that’s now clearly hers
—well, you get the idea.
I don’t have to go inside the house to make a diagnosis; the curbside analysis is usually enough. The McAllister house is a perfect example. In fact, I’d love to compare my original observations regarding Rebecca McAllister with Peter. She was depressed, for one. I drove past the McAllisters’ one morning in late May, not long after they’d moved in, and there she was, out in the early-morning haze, planting annuals all along the garden path. It wasn’t even seven A.M., but it was clear that she had been at it for hours. She was in a rather sheer white nightshirt, which was damp with sweat and covered with soil. People were starting to drive by, but Rebecca had become so absorbed in her gardening that it apparently hadn’t occurred to her to put on some proper clothes.
I stopped and said hello from my car window. We chatted for a few minutes about the weather, about how the kids were adjusting to their new school, but as we talked, I sensed a sadness in the way Rebecca planted—a mournfulness, as if she were placing each seedling in a tiny plot, a tiny little grave. And they were bright red impatiens that she was planting. There’s always something frantic about that kind of bold color choice for the front of a house. I said good-bye, and when I glanced back at Rebecca through my rearview mirror, it looked, from that distance, like there was a thin trail of blood leading all the way from the house to the spot where she knelt.
“I told her I would do the planting, but she likes to do it herself,” Linda Barlow, the McAllisters’ landscaper, told me later that day at the post office. “I think she’s lonely up there. I almost never see the husband.”
Linda knew I had sold them the house, and she seemed to imply that I had been derelict, somehow, in assuring the healthy acclimation of one of Wendover’s newest tre
“Fresh, sharp and masterfully told. Hildy’s tale is as intoxicating as it is sobering.”—People
“A layered and complex portrait of a woman struggling with addiction, in a town where no secret stays secret for long.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, The New York Times Book Review
“Superstition, drama, and intrigue unspool at a perfect pace in Ann Leary’s irresistible new novel, The Good House, a tale steeped in New England character and small-town social tumult.”—Redbook
“Hildy is an original, irresistibly likable and thoroughly untrustworthy....A genuinely funny novel about alcoholism.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Leary gleefully peels back the pretensions that so often accompany portraits of ye olde Americana, peering through the shingles to reveal a lobster-pot’s worth of ensnared ties between townies and the newly entitled....The Good House is a good read.”—USA Today
“One of the best works of Massachusetts fiction in recent memory.”—Boston Magazine
“Ann Leary's The Good House creates a one-of-a-kind character in Hildy Good, and gives us a raw, first-person glimpse into the mind of a middle-aged, outspoken wry New England realtor so real she might be someone you know...yet who also is hiding her alcoholism from her family, her town, and herself. By the end you'll be flipping pages, trying desperately to piece together what happened as much as the narrator is doing herself.”—Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of House Rules and Sing You Home
“Leary's genius is to give us a true original: Hildy, a not-so-recovering alcoholic/realtor who crashlands among a colorful cast of New England neighbors, but Leary also says a great deal about the houses we choose to live, the people we're compelled to love, and the addictions we don't want to give up. So alive, I swear the pages of this wickedly funny and moving novel are breathing.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
“I opened The Good House and was instantly sucked in; I read the whole thing in one sitting and was sorry when it ended. The story is atmospheric, funny, poignant, gritty, and romantic, and Hildy Good is refreshingly candid and lovably flawed.”—Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man
“Leary’s powerfully perceptive and smartly nuanced portrait of the perils of alcoholism is enhanced by her spot-on depiction of staid New England village life and the redemption to be found in traditions and community.”—Booklist
“In Leary’s third book...the perils of addiction come to life. Sure to please fans of women’s fiction featuring women of a certain age such as the novels of Jeanne Ray and Elizabeth Berg.”—Library Journal