Summer Reading: Too Many Cocktails & a Bit of Witchiness near Salem


Enjoying Ann Leary’s The Good House


Could there be witches beyond Salem in Massachusetts? Read Ann Leary's The Good House and find out. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Could there be witches beyond Salem in Massachusetts? Read Ann Leary’s The Good House and find out. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Being a constant reader, I’m the type who packs a duffle full of books and schleps it on vacation with me, no matter how far away I am going, no matter how convenient my Kindle happens to be. I like the hard copy in hand; I like to take notes; and I like my vacation reading to include some works, fiction or non-, set in the place I am actually visiting. So those trending toward Massachusetts this summer might like a turn with Ann Leary’s The Good House. What can go wrong in a weekend escape with descendants of witches, townies with substance-abuse issues, and weekenders with more money than happiness?

This quick fling, readable in a weekend, covers all that waterfront towns offer—charming old houses, convenient McMansions, class differences, mean mommies, mommies who drink, mommies who drink quietly in the basement with the lights off, men who wouldn’t be appropriate as husbands but who offer other charms, powerful men, and women with career challenges. The story focuses on Hildy Good, descendant of a Salem witch, an empty-nester (pretty much), and a parent who had to sacrifice time with her kids so she could provide those kids with ease. She has suffered the economic downturn and hasn’t quite bounced back; she’s experiencing competition in a changed business landscape where loyalty isn’t so much an element anymore. She is each of us.

I like that Leary offers readers a tipsy narrator with a career as a real estate broker, one who can be amused by the skinny-perfect lives of the weekenders and the challenges those poor folks experience getting their kids into the right preschools and smiling through dismal marriages. I like that our tipsy narrator deals with aging issues and isn’t ruffled easily, most of the time anyway. I like that the characters in the book deal with real-world subjects—political correctness surrounding learning-challenged kids, parents stressed by having flawed children, women who go a little bit crazy, providers providing for their families but pressured to make deals, late-in-life love interests that don’t follow one’s self-prescribed narrative, charming princes in unlikely packages, hoarders with money, women with too much money inclined to treat others poorly, working class sorts who can no longer afford to live in the town they grew up in, hypercritical adult children quick to accept parental assistance. No wonder Hildy drinks.

I read somewhere that every story involves either a character going on a journey or someone new coming to town. This story is about a real estate broker’s journey through life helping those new people coming to town settle into its ways.

Anyone disparaging overpriced coffee while drinking, gossiping about the neighbors while disdaining the practice, seeking quaint vacation homes while insisting on central air and open-concept kitchens, anyone with an interest about those Salem witches and what exactly they were doing and what happened to their families, will enjoy a good time with The Good House.

—Lori Tripoli


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