A Good Hard Look

A Good Hard Look

by Ann Napolitano

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A Good Hard Look 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Staceyrb More than 1 year ago
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!
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the young age of 39, Flannery O'Connor's life ended when systemic lupus claimed her body. This novel weaves a tale of the last five years of Flannery's life.A friend who shares similar reading tastes recommended this book. I owe her a big thanks! This book is brilliantly, powerfully written.Anyone who appreciates the writings of Flannery O'Connor will find a home when reading this book. It is obvious the writer researched the life of O'Connor and, it is amazing that like O'Connor, the author fascinatingly depicts characters who make choices that set a path of destruction in motion, never able to return and resew the fabric once it is unraveled.Set in the home town in Milledgeville, Georgia, the home of Flannery and her mother Regina, the backdrop of Flannery's beloved Peacocks provide the framework of a screaming, screeching set of 40 birds who, while fascinatingly beautiful, are disturbingly obnoxious.On their honeymoon eve, Melvin, a NY transplant and Cookie, his society soon to be bride make frantic love while hearing the cacophony of the bellowing and hollering birds. Setting the tone for dark events to follow, Cookie falls out of bed and blackens her eye.Pot smoking, lonely wife of the town Police Chief, Lona sews curtains for the residents of the town. When she falls in love with a 17 year old young man, her choices have grave consequences.NY transplant Melvin soon discovers a soul mate in Flannery and, while he travels thoughout town with a lovely wife, he is drawn to Flannery and her uncompromising, blunt honesty. Against the admonitions of his wife, he continues to visit Flannery. He eventually pays a very heavy price for his emotional indiscretion.In this stunningly beautiful book, Napolitano allows the reader to peer into the souls of complicated, anguished people who. like those in an O'Connor novel long for redemption and grace.Highly recommended.
ken1952 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flannery O'Connor's last years at her farm in Milledgeville, Ga during the 60's is at the core of this emotionally charged novel that will stay with me for a long time. I don't remember the last time I've read a novel that touched me so much. The tragic lives of Ann Napolitano's characters made me that much more intersted in them. But with the tragedy comes moments of comedy that add to the richness of the novel. This should make a great book for reading groups.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From the beginning of this book there is a sense of tension and forboding, a wedding and the screams of peacocks. Beautifully written love the words and this fictional portrayal of Flannery O'Conner and the twon she lived in. I have to say that I have never read anything by her but just as with The Parils Wife, everyone wanted to read Moveable Feast, I now want to read Flannery.
marient7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Forced by illness to leave behind a successful life as a writer in New York, Flannery O'Connor has returned to her family home in Milledgeville, Georgia. She desires a quiet, solitary existence, but her mother, Regina, insists that she engage with the life of their small town and she drags Flannery to the wedding of a family friend.Cookie Himmel embodies every facet of Southern womanhood that Flannery lacks. She is revered for her beauty and grace and she is at the helm of every ladies' organization in town. She has returned from hertime in Manhatten with a rich fiance.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Good Hard Look is the fascinating, fictional account of Flannery O'Connor's last years, settled in her farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. O'Connor suffered from lupus, and she fled home to her family's farm to write and raise a menagarie of birds, including peacocks. While the reader is treated to a wonderful portrayal of O'Connor, Ann Napolitano creates a moving story featuring other memorable characters: Cookie, the hometown queen who despised Flannery; her husband, Melvin, a New Yorker trying to navigate small town Georgia; Lona, a seamstress who falls in love with a boy more than half her age; and Gigi, Lona's daughter who pays the price for it all.While I haven't read much by Flannery O'Connor (side note: something to be rectified!), the story line of A Good Hard Look reminds me of the stories I have read by O'Connor. Each character makes a decision, knowing the consequences, and as the story evolves, tragedy strikes. The tragedies open up new lives and new decisions for the characters, and you hope they learn from their past and move on to happier times.A Good Hard Look is divided into two concurrent stories. First, there's the story of Cookie, Melvin and Flannery. Cookie and Melvin are recently married and settled into Milledgeville. Melvin is a New Yorker at heart, and despite his wife's wishes, he strikes up a secret friendship with Flannery. For Melvin, Flannery is like the city - spontaneous, honest and forthright. Second, there's the story of Lona and Joe. Lona is a lonely, pot-smoking seamstress who agrees to take on her friend's 17-year-old son, Joe, as an assistant. As they spend time together, they become attracted to each other. Their romance culminates until a a fateful afternoon begins a chain reaction of tragedies for their families - as well as the lives of Cookie, Melvin and Flannery.Expertly written and beautifully rendered, Ann Napolitano draws the reader into the lives of these characters and creates a story of love and loss. Equally important, she sheds light on one of American's most talented, and perhaps unsung, writers. I highly recommend A Good Hard Look to readers who enjoy literary fiction and stories about the American South.
PamelaBarrett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ann Napolitano has written a novel that is as good and as uncomfortable as one of Flannery O¿Connor¿s stories. A Good Hard Look recreates Flannery¿s hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia in the 1960¿s. The story starts the night before the wedding of the town¿s most beautiful Southern Bell, Cookie Himmel and her wealthy fiancé Melvin Whiteson. Cookie has everything planned; she knows what she wants in life, and Melvin thinks he is ready to start over in her world. Until he meets Flannery O¿Connor, whose brutal honesty and her revealing descriptions of the people around her, has always upset Cookie. At the time of the wedding, Flannery, who suffered from lupus, is home and recuperating on her family farm, Andalusia. She is under the care of her mother Regina, and surrounded by her beloved peacocks. That night, the peacocks¿ unearthly cries start a ruckus upsetting the town and the wedding guests. They are an important element of this tale, their voices do more than disturb the peace; they set up the underlying emotional current that leads them all to tragedy. Ann¿s book is an unflinching look at human nature and why it¿s so hard to change. It¿s true to life characters stayed in my thoughts long after I finished the last page. Caution: there are adult situations and one character smokes marijuana. I read an advanced uncorrected copy so I can¿t quote any of the fabulous lines Ann wrote, but her imagery grabs your heart. I received this book through Amazon Vine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sandiek More than 1 year ago
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.
MadelynFair More than 1 year ago
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.
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Meshugenah More than 1 year ago
The premise was really interesting, but the writing and character's circumstances were too predictable and cliche for me.