Over the weekend I read The Good House by Ann Leary.** It's the story of Hildy Good, a real estate broker in Wendover, a fictional town on the North Shore of Boston. Hildy's family has been in the area for generations—she is a descendant of Sarah Good, one of the girls hanged at the Salem witch trials. Hildy is not a witch, but she says, "I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions." She also has a party trick where she reads people's minds, but in fact she's just a very good student of what makes people tick.
The one thing that Hildy doesn't seem able to do is get a handle on her drinking, even after her daughters stage an intervention and send her to Hazelden. There are several converging plot lines, but Hildy's alcoholism is the thread running through the book.
This is a quick read, and not terribly demanding, but it kept my interest. I enjoyed meeting the various characters and seeing how the story would unfold. Hildy is a classic unreliable narrator, but you can't help liking her even while you occasionally want to shake her. There was a very warm-hearted humor throughout.
Before that one, I read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker for book group. We met last night to discuss it. Everyone loved it except for me. I found the writing way too flowery and sappy—so much so that it distracted me from the story. (Or perhaps it was the translator's fault? This was originally written in German.) And I did like the story: A young woman's father vanishes, and she follows his trail to rural Burma, where he grew up. No one in the family had ever known anything about the father's first 20 years of life, and the woman is about to learn more than she ever imagined. It's a beautiful love story, but I found the telling of it eye-rollingly syrupy. I probably should have guessed from the title. But I appear to be in the minority—and a tiny one at that—of non-believers, not just in my book group but in the Amazon comments as well. Anyone out there read it? What did you think?
*When you were little, did you think the railroad in Monopoly was pronounced "reeding" instead of "redding"? (If not, are you from Pennsylvania?) Also: In college I wrote a paper on Oscar Wilde's poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." That's "redding jail," not "reeding goal" as I first imagined.
**Because I am one of maybe eight people on the planet who read every single word of most books, I saw in the Acknowledgments that the author thanks "my dear, dear family: Devin, Jack, and Denis Leary." I saw that lone "n" and thought hmmm. Google confirmed that she's married to that Denis Leary. The author bio that accompanies her photo on the back book flap doesn't even hint at it: "She and her family share their small farm in Conencticut with four dogs, three horses, and an angry cat named Sneakers."