A Good Hard Look - Grace, Change and Pain

BlogHer Review

A MUST read!

Ann Napolitano paints the picture of small town life perfectly in A Good Hard Look. In the small town of Milledgeville, GA, a place where everybody knows everything about everybody, you see people for who they really are, and who they want to become.

Cookie Himmel is the epitome of beauty, class, and grace. When she returns from her time in New York she marries Melvin Whiteson, her wealthy fiancé, who has moved back to Milledgeville with Cookie to start a new chapter in his life. Cookie takes pride in the perfect life she strives to create in the town she grew up in. She even participates in every ladies organization in the small town.

The introduction of the characters Regina and Flannery O’Connor is perfectly written. Regina and Flannery are guests at Cookie and Melvin’s wedding, and it appears Cookie has everything Flannery lacks. Jealousy and rivalry separate the two women.

Melvin meets Flannery to pick up the absurd and unpractical wedding gift -- a peacock -- that Cookie scoffed at the thought of having. Flannery somehow awkwardly obligates Melvin into giving her driving lessons. It is with Flannery and these oddly planned driving lessons that Melvin starts to take a good, hard look at his own life. He feels it passing right by him. Even in their first conversation Flannery gets Melvin thinking about his new life in Milledgeville, his job, if he really enjoys it or if he is making a mistake. She instructs him not to settle and reminds him he has options and could do anything.

Something about Flannery intrigues Melvin, and even after requests from his wife, Cookie, not to see Flannery again, Melvin still finds himself spending time out in Anadalusia with Flannery. Flannery and Melvin have an upspoken connection. They somehow know what the other needs and feels.

Melvin is not the only one who feels his life passing by him. Lona Waters, dutiful housewife and mother, catches herself day-dreaming of a life she wished she had when she takes on the project of the Whiteson house. She pictures herself pregnant and providing her husband with another child. She sees herself being proud of her life and family.

In exchange of children, Lona takes Joe Treadle with her to the Whiteson house as her assistant. She doesn't pressure Joe with questions about his day. She doesn't bother with conversation. She simply takes to her craft and gets the job done. Her daily routine of working with Joe soon turns from awkward silence to innocent kisses inside the Whiteson house.

Melvin and Lona both find themselves in uncomfortable situations and soon find change happening quickly in their lives. And as Flannery described to Melvin, change is painful.

The narrative of A Good Hard Look makes the words literally come alive off the pages. Ann Napolitano’s prose is like the lyrics to a perfectly written song -- smooth, with great characters and transitions. A Good Hard Look makes you want to value your life and actually live it.

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