A Good Hard Look: You Won’t Be Able to Put it Down

BlogHer Review

The first few pages of A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano were so lushly packed with intrigue and beautiful writing I knew I wouldn’t be able to put the book down until it was finished. With a succulent and smooth writing style, Napolitano creates relatable but curious characters and puts you on nail-biting edge right from the start. You know that wonderful but yet uncomfortable squirmy feeling? Yup, Napolitano has a knack for kicking that into high gear.

Remembering Flannery O'Connor from high school English, I was intrigued to crack open A Good Hard Look, a story with Flannery as a central character based in her real-life hometown of Milledgeville. I so appreciated that Napolitano didn’t toss out random references to O’Connor’s books, which made it a pleasant read without needing to Google O’Connor to fact check. Instead, Flannery’s character intermixes with the whole crew staged in Napolitano’s Milledgeville, taking a good hard look at what they have become -- and are becoming.

All of the characters in A Good Hard Look make decisions that change lives and Napolitano weaves one into another creating a mash of moments that heave and pull. As soon as one character moves in one direction, another comes crashing along. With Flannery in the middle, all others, including Cookie, a beautiful but soul-searching teen queen constantly concerned about being trapped in a book, and her new husband, Melvin, are wantonly tossed about. Alongside Lona, the stoned mama, and her husband, the cop who wants more, the other characters press together into an intense grouping you know can’t end well.

When the pivotal moment arrives, it happens so quick you almost miss it. Napolitano has a way of writing that catches your breath and forces you to stop and read, and sometimes re-read every word again, just to make sure you got everything right. She spins such tumultuous situations from which you are left shaking your head but still wanting more.

What I loved about A Good Hard Look was with every twist and turn I was engrossed with the outcome. Napolitano’s writing pulled me in and kept me voraciously reading and reading, ready for more. Able to capture the emotion and inner turmoil through her writing, even when one of her characters is enduring intense insufferable pain, she carves images through her words such as when Flannery tries to make sense of traumatic events:

An accident was when you spilled milk. An accident was when you confused two relatives’ birthdays and forgot to send a card. An accident was when you lost control of the steering wheel and drove into a tree. As far as Flannery was concerned, an accident was something you walked away from. Words mattered to her, as did accurate definitions, and what happened on her lawn had not been an accident.”

Once the last page had been turned, I took a deep breath and closed the book up tight. It truly was a reading adventure that I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying. Through the ups and downs and roundabouts, Napolitano taps into your inner core of personal intrigue and allows total voyeuristic pleasure while watching every one of her characters unwind and then snap back together – and maybe not in the way you were expecting.

A stunningly written story of love, loss, redemption, forgiveness, and life, A Good Hard Look will pull at your heart-strings as well as leave you gasping for air.

You can’t beat that.

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