A Good Hard Look: A Novel of Flannery O'Connor

( 11 )

Overview

Forced by illness to leave behind a successful life as a writer in New York, Flannery O’Connor has returned to her family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. She desires a quiet, solitary existence, but her mother, Regina, drags Flannery to the wedding of a family friend.

The embodiment of southern womanhood, Cookie Himmel is Flannery’s antithesis and has returned from her time in Manhattan to marry rich fiancé, Melvin Whiteson. Lona Waters, a dutiful housewife, is hired by Cookie ...

See more details below
Paperback
$15.38
BN.com price
(Save 3%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (18) from $1.99   
  • New (4) from $1.99   
  • Used (14) from $1.99   
A Good Hard Look

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.99
BN.com price

Overview

Forced by illness to leave behind a successful life as a writer in New York, Flannery O’Connor has returned to her family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. She desires a quiet, solitary existence, but her mother, Regina, drags Flannery to the wedding of a family friend.

The embodiment of southern womanhood, Cookie Himmel is Flannery’s antithesis and has returned from her time in Manhattan to marry rich fiancé, Melvin Whiteson. Lona Waters, a dutiful housewife, is hired by Cookie to help create a perfect home, but when she is given an opportunity to remember what it feels like to be truly alive, and she seizes it with both hands.

In the course of one tragic afternoon, these characters must take a good hard look at the choices they have made and face up to O’Connor’s observation that “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
“Napolitano’s protagonist is a marvelously outspoken, uncompromising force who becomes the impetus for several fictional Milledgeville residents to reassess and radically alter their lives…[Napolitano] has spun an absorbing, old-fashioned tale about how, as in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, ‘Grace changes a person….And change is painful.’”
O Magazine
“In A Good Hard Look, Ann Napolitano creates a fictional version of the life of the acclaimed southern writer that is as vibrantly colorful as the peacocks raised on the O’Connor family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia…Napolitano makes no attempt to mimic O’Connor’s singular style, but she does succeed in creating a wholly believable world shaped by duty, small pleasures, and fateful choices.”
Entertainment Weekly
“To brand this a quaint period piece…would be doing Napolitano’s evocative tale of friendship and community a disservice.”
Seattle Times
“Ann Napolitano’s second novel, A Good Hard Look, is haunted by those peacocks and by O’Connor herself. Though Napolitano doesn’t try to write like O’Connor — her gentle, quietly elegant prose is worlds away from the powerful, often devastatingly harsh Southern Gothic world in which O’Connor dwelled — her book nonetheless emerges as a graceful tribute, not only to a writer, but to a time and place.”
Denver Post
“Napolitano doesn’t attempt to mimic Flannery O’Connor’s writing style, turning instead to her own lyric take on the human condition. She’s not written a biography of Flannery, though the character is well rooted in research….While [Flannery's] interaction is key to the story, she is a catalyst. One cannot imagine the novel without her, but she is just one in a cast of fully fleshed- out and entrancing characters.”
Atlanta Journal
“Ann Napolitano’s novel, A Good Hard Look, with O’Connor occupying a central role, does the Georgia author proud. Be prepared to like this book. It’s complicated and peacock-haunted and strange…’ Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he’s unable to do?’ O’Connor once asked. At the heart of Napolitano’s brave book lies that question: the mysteries of freedom, its price, and the unmarked paths we take to get there.”
Booklist
“The fact that an at-her-prime, seriously ill Flannery O’Connor is one of its main characters, while it might have overwhelmed a lesser novel, doesn’t drown this one; Napolitano doesn’t seek to emulate O’Connor’s style (other than by being, also, pointedly southern), but crafts, though characters (stunt-cast or no) her own powerful argument for living honestly…muggy, deeply enthralling, and worth a read.”
Jackson Free Press
“From almost the first page, this novel seemed real. I could feel, somehow, the characters’ seemingly pre-ordained retreat from grace as a deceptively simple plot unfolded in Milledgeville, Ga., where O’Connor returned to live out her final days in the early 1950s…. This narrative is a great story, almost light at times, often very funny—but always with the knowledge that this propped-up happiness too shall end…. there will be survivors, and they will find a touch more grace in their lives. What is less obvious is that Napolitano will somehow make you one of those survivors thinking about your own rocky road to redemption.”
From the Publisher
“In A Good Hard Look, Ann Napolitano creates a fictional version of the life of the acclaimed southern writer that is as vibrantly colorful as the peacocks raised on the O’Connor family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia…Napolitano makes no attempt to mimic O’Connor’s singular style, but she does succeed in creating a wholly believable world shaped by duty, small pleasures, and fateful choices.” — O Magazine

“Napolitano’s protagonist is a marvelously outspoken, uncompromising force who becomes the impetus for several fictional Milledgeville residents to reassess and radically alter their lives…[Napolitano] has spun an absorbing, old-fashioned tale about how, as in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, ‘Grace changes a person….And change is painful.’” —The Washington Post

“To brand this a quaint period piece…would be doing Napolitano’s evocative tale of friendship and community a disservice.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Ann Napolitano’s novel, A Good Hard Look, with O’Connor occupying a central role, does the Georgia author proud. Be prepared to like this book. It’s complicated and peacock-haunted and strange…’ Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he’s unable to do?’ O’Connor once asked. At the heart of Napolitano’s brave book lies that question: the mysteries of freedom, its price, and the unmarked paths we take to get there.” — Atlanta Journal

“From almost the first page, this novel seemed real. I could feel, somehow, the characters’ seemingly pre-ordained retreat from grace as a deceptively simple plot unfolded in Milledgeville, Ga., where O’Connor returned to live out her final days in the early 1950s…. This narrative is a great story, almost light at times, often very funny—but always with the knowledge that this propped-up happiness too shall end…. there will be survivors, and they will find a touch more grace in their lives. What is less obvious is that Napolitano will somehow make you one of those survivors thinking about your own rocky road to redemption.” — Jackson Free Press

“The fact that an at-her-prime, seriously ill Flannery O’Connor is one of its main characters, while it might have overwhelmed a lesser novel, doesn’t drown this one; Napolitano doesn’t seek to emulate O’Connor’s style (other than by being, also, pointedly southern), but crafts, though characters (stunt-cast or no) her own powerful argument for living honestly…muggy, deeply enthralling, and worth a read.” — Booklist

“Napolitano doesn’t attempt to mimic Flannery O’Connor’s writing style, turning instead to her own lyric take on the human condition. She’s not written a biography of Flannery, though the character is well rooted in research….While [Flannery's] interaction is key to the story, she is a catalyst. One cannot imagine the novel without her, but she is just one in a cast of fully fleshed- out and entrancing characters.”

Denver Post

“Ann Napolitano’s second novel, A Good Hard Look, is haunted by those peacocks and by O’Connor herself. Though Napolitano doesn’t try to write like O’Connor — her gentle, quietly elegant prose is worlds away from the powerful, often devastatingly harsh Southern Gothic world in which O’Connor dwelled — her book nonetheless emerges as a graceful tribute, not only to a writer, but to a time and place.” — Seattle Times

Entertainment Weekly

“To brand this a quaint period piece…would be doing Napolitano’s evocative tale of friendship and community a disservice.”

Atlanta Journal

“Ann Napolitano’s novel, A Good Hard Look, with O’Connor occupying a central role, does the Georgia author proud. Be prepared to like this book. It’s complicated and peacock-haunted and strange…’ Does one’s integrity ever lie in what he’s unable to do?’ O’Connor once asked. At the heart of Napolitano’s brave book lies that question: the mysteries of freedom, its price, and the unmarked paths we take to get there.”

Booklist

“The fact that an at-her-prime, seriously ill Flannery O’Connor is one of its main characters, while it might have overwhelmed a lesser novel, doesn’t drown this one; Napolitano doesn’t seek to emulate O’Connor’s style (other than by being, also, pointedly southern), but crafts, though characters (stunt-cast or no) her own powerful argument for living honestly…muggy, deeply enthralling, and worth a read.”

The Washington Post

“Napolitano’s protagonist is a marvelously outspoken, uncompromising force who becomes the impetus for several fictional Milledgeville residents to reassess and radically alter their lives…[Napolitano] has spun an absorbing, old-fashioned tale about how, as in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, ‘Grace changes a person….And change is painful.’”

Denver Post

“Napolitano doesn’t attempt to mimic Flannery O’Connor’s writing style, turning instead to her own lyric take on the human condition. She’s not written a biography of Flannery, though the character is well rooted in research….While [Flannery's] interaction is key to the story, she is a catalyst. One cannot imagine the novel without her, but she is just one in a cast of fully fleshed- out and entrancing characters.”

Seattle Times

“Ann Napolitano’s second novel, A Good Hard Look, is haunted by those peacocks and by O’Connor herself. Though Napolitano doesn’t try to write like O’Connor — her gentle, quietly elegant prose is worlds away from the powerful, often devastatingly harsh Southern Gothic world in which O’Connor dwelled — her book nonetheless emerges as a graceful tribute, not only to a writer, but to a time and place.”

O Magazine

“In A Good Hard Look, Ann Napolitano creates a fictional version of the life of the acclaimed southern writer that is as vibrantly colorful as the peacocks raised on the O’Connor family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia…Napolitano makes no attempt to mimic O’Connor’s singular style, but she does succeed in creating a wholly believable world shaped by duty, small pleasures, and fateful choices.”

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143121152
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 632,156
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Napolitano is the author of the novel Within Arm's Reach. She is a graduate of Connecticut College and received her MFA from New York University. She lives in New York City with her family.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In A Good Hard Look, Ann Napolitano takes us inside the life of one of America's great writers, Flannery O'Connor. Diagnosed with lupus at 25, she returned from New York City to her hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia. There she spent the remaining 14 years of her life in relative isolation, living with her mother on their small farm, surrounded by dozens of cacophonous peacocks. Many readers remember her daunting stories, but the violence from her pen contrasted sharply with her peaceful farm life. With her independent spirit, razor-sharp wit, and a penetrating eye for seeing beneath social facades, she makes for a fascinating fictional character, and Ann Napolitano brings her vividly to life on the pages of A Good Hard Look.

The novel begins on the eve of the marriage between the beautiful Cookie Himmel, voted most popular girl in her high school, and the wealthy New York banker Melvin Whiteson. Expectations are high for a spectacular wedding, the most exciting thing to happen in Milledgeville for many years. But Flannery's peacocks are raising a ruckus. Their unrelenting screeching keeps the whole town awake, knocks Cookie out of bed, causing her to bruise her face, and induces a fit of ill-timed passion in the young couple. Cookie walks down the aisle the following day with a black eye and Melvin is so rattled by a sleepless night that he has to force himself to pay attention—hardly the perfect celebration they had hoped for. Thus begins a pattern of expectation and deflation that will run throughout the novel.

But many of the characters in A Good Hard Look, like those in O'Connor's own fiction, are in for much more than burst bubbles. Some are plunged into almost unimaginable suffering—suffering that will either ruin or transform them. For some, trouble arises from their restlessness, their feeling that life is passing them by. When Cookie hires Lona Waters, a listless housewife living in a permanent fog of boredom and marijuana, to make the perfect drapes for her house, Lona begins an affair that thrills her to the bone but will have tragic consequences. And as Melvin gives Flannery secret driving lessons, he feels a vitality that makes the rest of his life feel dull and pointless. He has promised his insecure wife not to see Flannery, but finds himself irresistibly drawn to her remarkable directness and depth. These secret rendezvous will bring about another devastation. Flannery herself wants to escape into her writing, more sure of herself in fiction than in reality, but reality won't leave her alone and she too is pulled into the storm of suffering by an event that leaves the whole town forever changed.

Napolitano explores the inner lives of all her characters—their thoughts and feelings and deepest motivations—with a verisimilitude rare in contemporary fiction. The result is novel that not only gives us an arresting portrait of Flannery O'Connor but illuminates the essential human predicament with remarkable insight, compassion, and ultimately hope.

ABOUT ANN NAPOLITANO

Ann Napolitano is the author of the novel Within Arm's Reach. She is a graduate of Connecticut College and received her MFA from New York University. She lives in New York City with her family.

A CONVERSATION WITH ANN NAPOLITANO

Q. What drew you to write a novel centered around Flannery O'Connor? What were the most interesting challenges/pleasures in writing about such an extraordinary literary figure? How much research did you do for the novel?

When I started A Good Hard Look, I had no idea Flannery O'Connor would come anywhere near the novel. If you'd told me she would be one of the characters, I would have said you were crazy. I had no aspiration to write historical fiction and I hadn't read any of Flannery's work in about a decade.

Initially, the book was about a character called Melvin Whiteson who lived in New York City in the present day. I had the idea of this very wealthy man who'd been given every opportunity, but didn't know what to do with those opportunities. I was interested in the question of how people choose to live their lives. The novel wasn't working though; I think Melvin was more of an idea than a character. It was about a year into the book that Flannery O'Connor showed up out of the blue—creatively speaking—though in hindsight, I can see that she embodies for me this idea of a "life well-lived". Her appearance changed everything, of course. The time period, the setting, the heartbeat of the novel. I think she also provided the contrast that Melvin required to come to life as a character, and really, to shape the rest of the narrative.

As a writer, her arrival both excited and terrified me. My dual fear—which I carried throughout the remainder of the writing process—was that I would portray Flannery inaccurately, or that I would do her a disservice by writing a mediocre book. To conquer the first fear, I did a lot of research. I read everything I could get my hands on. I re-read Flannery's stories, her essays and two novels; I read the one existing biography on her, and several critical essays about her work; I flew to Atlanta, rented a car and drove to Milledgeville. I visited Andalusia, her farm (which is now a museum) and walked all over town. I was only there for about thirty hours, but that visit was crucial. Milledgeville had to be real to me, so I could make it real for the reader. Sitting on Flannery's front porch, and smelling the air there—I don't think I could have re-created her world without spending that time in her space.

To conquer the second fear, I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote and then re-wrote some more. I worked on this book for seven years in total, and that's because I had to make sure Flannery was as true as possible, and that the book that contained her was not terrible.

Q. Has Flannery O'Connor been a major influence on your own work?

The short answer to that is yes, but not in the way you might think. The truth is that Flannery's non-fiction has had a much larger influence on my work than her fiction. I fell in love with Flannery's letters during college, when I was assigned The Habit of Being. I can't recommend that book highly enough; her letters are wonderful—they're irreverent, sarcastic, insightful, and wise. Flannery is accessible, and even sweet in a way you'd never guess from her fiction. So the letters drew me in, but my connection to her deepened because the content of the letters spoke directly to the circumstances of my life. Flannery chronicled her battle with lupus; when I read the letters, I was also sick. I'd been diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, an auto-immune disease, six months earlier. As it turned out, I would be ill for the next three years, and the symptoms had already dissembled my highly active, twenty-year-old life.

Reading those letters, I had what Oprah would probably call an "A-ha moment". Flannery wrote about coming to terms with her changed situation, and deciding to focus her limited energy where it would matter most—on her writing. I consciously sized up my own life in a similar manner. I had always loved writing, but I lacked the confidence to declare myself a writer. After I graduated, I planned to work in publishing, or something book-related. I would surround myself with other people's words, and maybe write on my own in secret, as a hobby. But my illness, and Flannery's example, offered up a new clarity. I was able to appreciate, in a way my obnoxiously healthy twenty-year-old peers couldn't, the real brevity of life. I could see how important it was to make each moment meaningful, and to make my life matter somehow. Because of Flannery, I decided to become a writer. So, yes, she is the major influence behind everything I write.

Q. Flannery O'Connor, as she appears in your novel and in her own writing, seems able to see through people's facades, to penetrate to the depths of who they really are. The illustration for your website shows x-ray views of people on the streets of New York City. Is this kind of x-ray vision an essential skill for a novelist to have?

It certainly helps. I'm fascinated by people—their character quirks, the way they speak, and most of all their stories, both the ones they tell and the ones they hide. I can meet someone at a party and speak to them for ten minutes, and then startle them years later when I recall verbatim the anecdote they told me at the party. I simply love stories, and I love trying to tease out the riddle of what makes a particular person tick. Writing fiction allows me to explore humanity, and that's one of the things I love most about it.

Q. You describe the peacocks several times as doing what they please rather than trying to please others. "The peacocks were not out to make friends. They were out to do what they liked, when they liked" [p. 3]. Did you intend for the peacocks to have a particular symbolic value in the novel?

No. I really don't know what to say about the peacocks' symbolic value. I'm too close to the story; I don't have the perspective. I didn't write them to represent something, but that doesn't mean they don't. I look forward to hearing what other people think about the peacocks; I know the readers will be a lot wiser in this area than me.

All I can say with certainty is that I loved writing about the birds in every way—their visual beauty, their take-no-prisoners attitude, their noise. Each scene they showed up in, they took over in the best kind of way. The peacocks were a joy to Flannery in her life, and they were a pleasure for me in the book.

Q. Did you know how the novel would end when you began or did it take new directions as you were writing it?

Like I said earlier, I worked on the novel for a year before Flannery even showed up. So, in the beginning I knew almost nothing. Once Flannery was in the book, I figured the peacocks would play a role in the ending, but I didn't know anything more specific than that. I wrote many, many drafts, and headed in many different directions while writing this book. Imagine a tangential story line for A Good Hard Look, and I probably wrote (and deleted) it at least once.

Q. When asked whether universities stifled writers, Flannery O'Connor famously remarked: "My view is that they don't stifle enough of them." How helpful was your experience at the creative writing program at New York University? Are our MFA programs turning out too many writers?

I love that quote. My MFA experience had two distinct positives: 1) I had the chance to study under a brilliant teacher, the writer Dani Shapiro. I still have her voice in my head (in a good way) when I write. 2) I met two writers in the program—Hannah Tinti and Helen Ellis—with whom I still meet regularly to critique one another's work. They are the first sets of eyes that see any draft of my writing. I wouldn't even want to guess how many times they read A Good Hard Look. I dedicated the book to them, and frankly, they earned it.

So, my basic take on MFA programs is that they are expensive, and not necessary to become a writer, but they can certainly be helpful in various ways.

Q. What are you working on now?

I've started taking notes on a novel, which is a new experience for me. I've never tried to plot or plan before beginning a book, so I'm finding it to be an interesting (and frustrating, and hopefully rewarding) experience. The book is inspired by a news story I was obsessed with last year, but that's all I can say at this point.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Why does Napolitano open the novel with the screaming of the peacocks and with Cookie's fall? Why does she end the novel with a peacock's tail pushing through the net of its captor?
  • What kind of woman is Flannery O'Connor as she is portrayed in A Good Hard Look? How is she perceived by the people of Milledgeville? What crucial moments in the novel reveal her full depth and complexity?
  • Flannery has a "clear preference for fiction over reality, but reality wouldn't leave her alone" [p. 168]. How does reality intrude upon Flannery's desire to escape into her fiction? How does she respond to such intrusions?
  • Napolitano's writing is filled with vivid, arresting metaphors. The heat in the kitchen where Gigi works leans on her "like a grizzly bear, big and heavy, occasionally swatting her with a giant paw" [p. 259]. After her daughter's death, Cookie's mind "slipped across the calendar like it was a sheet of ice" [p. 207]. How do such descriptions add to the texture of the novel? How do they impact the reading experience?
  • After the tragedy that kills Joe and Rose, Flannery thinks about "degrees of need…" She had "wanted Melvin's friendship, but had she needed it? Without food and water, you die, but to what degree do people need each other?" [p. 265]. How does the novel itself answer this question? In what instances does the need for human connection appear most strongly?
  • In what different ways do Melvin, Cookie, Gigi, Miss Mary, Flannery, and Lona try to cope with the tragedy that has befallen them?
  • During her confession, the priest tells Flannery that Rose's death was an accident, but she rejects this interpretation. "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" [p. 271]. In what sense was Rose's death not an accident? To what degree are both Melvin and Flannery responsible?
  • Melvin tells Flannery, "I wonder what it says about you, that there are no happy endings. All your characters are left in some kind of pain." Flannery replies that "it's possible that the characters are closer to grace at the end of the stories. Grace changes a person, you know. And change is painful. It's just like you agnostic types to see the pain, but not the transformation" [p. 84 – 85]. Does A Good Hard Look have a happy ending? Who among its main characters is transformed by the pain they suffer? Is Flannery herself transformed or does she serve more as an agent of transformation in others?
  • What is it that leads Melvin to realize he has wasted his life? How does he respond to this epiphany?
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(5)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 11, 2011

    MUST read for the summer!

    I picked up A Good Hard Look a few days ago and I was not able to put it down all weekend.

    I was immediately drawn into Napolitano's beautifully crafted world of characters orbiting around Flannery O'Connor.

    The book takes you on the characters journey -- their pain, growth, realizations and actions that all start to change the course of their lives and those around them.

    It's hard not to see yourself in the characters and imagine what might be possible in your own life if you do take a good hard, honest look at the way you live.

    Not the mention, the writing is simple and gorgeous. You can tell that Napolitano wanted each word to count. And they do!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Masterful Portrayal

    The local celebrity in Milledgeville, Georgia, is Flannery O’Connor. Raised in the town, Flannery moved to New York to pursue a writing career. She is making headway when she receives the same diagnosis of lupus that killed her father. Flannery’s disease moves quickly and at the age of twenty-five, she is back home in Milledgeville at the family farm, Andalusia. She spends her time writing and raising peacocks; the fierce, proud birds touching a chord in her. She is the local star, yet feared by many of the town for her ability to see through the artifice with which most of us surround our lives. As O’Connor was known to say: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
    While Flannery is the most famous inhabitant, she is not necessarily the most influential. That would be the power couple of Cookie and Melvin Whiteson. Cookie grew up in town, the ‘it’ girl who was the most popular in high school and who won all the trophies and prizes. She went North after school and returned with Melvin, an extremely wealthy man who wants to marry her. Their wedding is the year’s most talked about event, and also the place where Melvin and Flannery meet. They strike up a friendship that Cookie is unaware of and would never approve of. Cookie spends her time organizing everything worth organizing in town and is recognized as the woman who makes things happen.

    Lona Waters is as far in character from Cookie as it is possible to be. Lona has drifted through life, married to Bill Waters, an ambitious policeman. She has a drapery business and spends her time making window treatments for the wealthy of the town. Yet, Cookie, Flannery and Lona all are brought together in an afternoon of tragedy. Afterwards, none of the women or the men in their lives are the same.

    Ann Napolitano has created a masterful portrayal of Southern life and more, the portrayal of how most of us move through life, living it but never really experiencing it to the fullest. The characters are compellingly drawn, while the tragedy that defines the book is foreshadowed in such a way that when it occurs, it seems inevitable. Yet, the characters and their lives also have hope, leaving the reader shaken and better for having read it. This book is highly recommended for all readers; a powerful novel that redefines how individuals can face life and its hardships.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2012

    I really enjoyed this book--it was a literary, can't-put-it-down

    I really enjoyed this book--it was a literary, can't-put-it-down, beautiful work. I was first drawn to it by my passion for O'Connor's works. I've read Gooch's biography of her, and some of O'Connor's letters, and I've also walked through O'Connor's Savannah home on a personal tour that was unforgettable, imprinting the young Flannery on my mind forever. So with this background, I probably would be a severe critic if this work did not measure up. Napolitano captured Flannery. The most powerful passages are those when Napolitano describes O'Connor's writing process--those seem straight from heaven, almost as if Flannery approved them. Napolitano got inside the writer's mind and spoke truth about the pain of artistic birth and finding the right words. I also enjoyed the other characters, their arcs, and the violence that plagued each of them--very O'Connor, very honest, very believable despite the outrageous moments (like O'Connor's work--the events seemed logical, grace and sin-filled consequence, where all fall short and yet are still bathed in holy light).

    My only critiques are the stilted nature of O'Connor and Whiteson's interactions (I didn't quite believe their attraction to one another, when they were together) and some of the cliched similes. Many comparisons were brilliant. These are minor issues, the only reason I didn't give it 5 stars.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 26, 2012

    Somewhat Disappointed

    The premise was really interesting, but the writing and character's circumstances were too predictable and cliche for me.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)