A Good Hard Look - A Tapestry of Characters Almost as Complicated as a Peacock Feather
I’ve only heard of Flannery O’Connor and seen the movie Wise Blood based on one of her novels (never read her novels), but I read a bit about her before reading Ann Napolitano's A Good Hard Look. I was fascinated by her obsession with peacocks, and how her devout Catholicism shaped her novels.
Ann portrays Flannery as a strong and devout woman. Her lupus isn’t a burden, but a challenge given to her because God only gives challenges to those who can bear them. The fictional Flannery seems to live, and accomplish what she does because of her illness. In the meantime Cookie, the woman who carries the burden of Southern Belle runs away from her and Flannery’s hometown of Milledgeville, GA to New York, because that must be where everything is OK (because that’s where Flannery went -- it must be OK), and only one person stops to notice her there. That person is Melvin. There is the young cop, Bill, from Atlanta married to Lona, and their obscure daughter, Gina. There is Mary with her worrisome son Joe.
The characters in this book don’t start out bigger than life. They’re everyday people in the 1960’s southern states surviving life in their various Southern American castes. Flannery O’Connor seems to set off some old memories and some new desires in Cookie and Melvin, and more is brewing in the lives of those outside, yet tied to them.
This book was surprising to me. The dialogue was written in a way that I could hear the Georgia drawl. The story grabbed me early on, but never gave a clue to where it headed, and I found myself shocked and dismayed at where things ended up. I was pleasantly surprised by that fact that I did not see the ending coming, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this fictional perspective of Flannery O’Connor. I plan to be reading her novels and getting more familiar with her after reading this wonderful book.