Anne B. (Odessa, WA)
A Good Hard Look
If you like in-depth character development, this is an excellent book for you. It reminded me of the excellent films of director, David Mamet. Ann Napolitano has a unique way of delving into the souls of her characters, taking you into the depth of each soul while enabling you to understand and appreciate their bazaar behavior. The plot grows and twists in ways that totally surprised me, yet left me appreciative of each the character's reactions -- and I don't normally read fiction. How she was able to involve Flannery O'Connor in this novel was amazing. This is a great read. I couldn't put it down.
Judy B. (Marysville, OH)
This wonderful book does Flannery O'Connor proud
I wanted to read this book because the real-life Flannery O’Connor is a main character. And, yes, her character alone grabbed my attention when I started reading, but the more I read the more I could not put the book down. We are privy to the internal lives of no less than eight main characters and they are all compelling. The writing style is quiet, unassuming, compassionate, giving voice to the turmoil and clashes of opposites in the heart of each character—intense joy and heartbreaking tragedy, passion and indifference, selfishness and generosity, engagement and withdrawal, attraction and rejection. This book is luminous with sadness and insight. The author writes on her Web site that she worked on the book for seven years because she wanted it to be worthy of O’Connor, whom she admires not only as a great writer but as a person who lived a “well-lived life,” a concept that is a major theme of this book. I feel that she has done O’Connor proud. I’m inspired to re-read Flannery O’Conner and to get my hands on Ann Napolitano’s first book, Within Arm’s Reach, right away.
Martha D. (Poway, CA)
A Good Hard Look
I understand there are many people who don't enjoy speculative historical fiction. I'm not one of them. I take them as a work of fiction with a character name I happen to know. And the references to their lives usually makes me want to find out more about them. I really enjoyed Gothic feel of this book. I haven't read much Flannery O'Conner but after reading this book I want to go out a read more of her work. Much like The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott I'd like to think Flannery had a little life in her life even if it may have lead to heartache. I love a good piece of Southern fiction and this is a good piece of Southern Fiction. I look forward to seeing what this author does next.
Karen R. (Gilbert, AZ)
Ambition and Heartbreak
At first a familiar, whimsical account of a New Yorker adjusting to small-town life, inquisitive neighbors, and their private ambitions as well as their heartbreaks, the later portion of the novel darkens when an event alters the course of several characters' lives -- a shift that places Flannery O'Connor in a position of self-inflicted guilt that fans of the author may find too speculative. Readers familiar with Southern Gothic novels may also find the darkness in this one does not reach similar depths; still, the novel presents a redemptive conclusion after several difficulties, and the peacock imagery woven throughout serves the story beautifully.
Loretta F. (Fountain Inn, SC)
When I read Flannery O'Connor's short stories in college, I found them thought provoking and disturbingly honest. Reading Napolitano's book was almost like reading Flannery again. I liked the title, so ironic, and so very much like the titles of Flannery's stories. If some of the characters in "A Good Hard Look" had only taken a good hard look, then tragedy might have been avoided. One of the major themes of the novel is our interconnectedness with others. No one acts alone, especially in a small southern town.
My only criticism is the peacocks. While they were necessary to tie the characters and plot together, I thought the author's use of them was overdone, so that the story seemed unbelievable at times. Fans of Flannery O'Connor will love the book, and those who have never read her will want to.
Robin M. (Corpus Christi, TX)
A Good Hard Look
Ann Napolitano has produced one of those rare novels which will pull you into another time and place- Milledgeville,Georgia and Andalusia-home of Flannery O'Connor.Like Flannery's famed peacocks perched precariously in a magnolia tree,the inhabitants teeter on the edge of normalcy,living on the periphery of each others lives while inwardly struggling with the isolation and constraints of their own.It is only after a shockingly violent and tragic event that will break your heart that they begin to really see each other and transform their own lives.
I would highly recommend this book.it is beautifully written and stayed with me long after the last page was turned.