With 18 out of 20 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, A Good Hard Look is a top pick among BookBrowse readers!
Here's what they have to say:
Ann Napolitano has written a compelling story with a Southern Gothic feel. I love the way the major characters' lives intertwine (Ken F). As a Georgia resident, I thoroughly enjoyed Napolitano's exploration and examination of the lives in a tiny Georgia town transformed by its most famous daughter, Flannery O'Connor (Barbara A). 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 (Judy B), and the peacock imagery woven throughout serves the story beautifully (Karen R).
Some drew comparisons to Flannery O'Connor's writing, and others were inspired to seek out her work:
This book is almost as satisfying as reading Flannery O'Connor. The characters are not as unusual as hers, and yet, to me, the themes of morality and ethics present in her fiction and essays are a significant part of this plot (Marjorie A). I haven't read much Flannery O'Conner, but after A Good Hard Look, I want to go out a read more of her work (Martha D).
But a few were not impressed:
The writing style is very simple - short sentences: subject - verb; subject - verb. The characters are, at best, two dimensional. Many triangles of sad, unhappy, unfulfilled folks (Marganna K). I hoped to learn more about Ms. O'Connor than that she had lupus, raised peacocks and was a devout Catholic. To really know this great author read her work and a good biography (Martha P).
An engaging story that will resonate even after you have finished (Kate G). Some books are simply born to be re-read, and then probably read again! Very much in the way Melvin thought of Flannery O'Connor, this novel strategically rubbed the facade of the many social pretenses right off everyday small town social interactions. It was intriguing with moments of brilliance, and led the reader to look very closely at the things that really matter between the people in our lives! Highly recommended - for both personal reading and for book group discussions (Kathrin C). Fans of O'Connor will love the book, and those who have never read her will want to (Loretta F).
This review was originally published in July 2011, and has been updated for the June 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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