A Good Hard Look
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A Good Hard Look

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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  823 ratings  ·  224 reviews

Literary history and fiction gracefully intersect in Ann Napolitano's second novel. (Her first was the well-received 2005 Within Arm's Length.) A Good Hard Look pays tribute to author Flannery O'Connor in both its setting (her hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia) and its title (a sly remake of O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find). The legendary author also makes appearanc

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Hardcover, 326 pages
Published July 7th 2011 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published January 1st 2011)
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Kathleen
I like to read with a pen and small notebook close by, to copy a phrase or thought or question for later reflection. This book caused me to stop so often to bookmark or jot something down that it almost became a distraction. "A Good Hard Look" may be the most thought-provoking book I have read in many months.

Flannery O’Connor is an author I have read off and on throughout my life, drawn to her style and subjects at times, put off by her raw emotions at others, intrigued by the literary giants wh...more
Katrina
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it,” is the epigraphic quote that begins Ann Napolitano’s new novel, “A Good Hard Look.” Even if you haven’t read Flannery O’Connor and experienced her unflinching characterizations and situations rendered with sharp wit, you will feel as if you know her after reading this memorable portrayal. Milledgeville, Georgia, the town in which O’Connor lived, comes to life in Napolitano’s assured hands, and its characters are just as lively a...more
Linda Lipko
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...more
Erika Robuck
The novel takes place in O’Connor’s small hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia. There are three point of view characters in the book: Melvin, the wealthy New Yorker who’s relocated to marry Cookie, the town debutante, and Lona, their seamstress. Melvin, Cookie, and Lona are each stilted or stifled in some way, and are in search (consciously or unconsciously) of a way to make their lives matter.

Melvin is drawn to Flannery O’Connor for her bold honesty as an escape from the extreme state of politene...more
Janet
What nerve Ann Napolitano has. It takes nerve to write a novel with Flannery O'Connor as a main character. To set much of the story in O'Connor's hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia and Andalusia, O'Connor's farm. To take on the very themes that O'Connor explored with such artistry: death, grace, faith, forgiveness, redemption. To write characters whose lives will change in a second, whose fate will hinge on small moments with unthinkable consequences. A stolen kiss in a car, the spreading of a b...more
Teresa Lukey
When I first started hearing about A good Hard Look, I thought I might not enjoy it so much since I didn't know a gosh darn thing about Flannery O'Connor. You notice I said that I "didn't know"? Well, that's because this book turned out to be a great primer on Flannery.

This story takes place in Milledgeville, Georgia, Flannery O'Connor's hometown. Flannery and her 40-some peacocks are at the center of the story throughout and, in large part, all the other relationships and stories are build arou...more
Chris Blocker
Ann Napolitano is brave. Fictionalizing a prominent person in history would make most writers nervous, but making that person such an important and central figure to the plot—well, I think many of us would prefer to leave that to the likes of Napolitano. In A Good Hard Look, Flannery O'Connor takes the stage with a backdrop of her hometown, Milledgeville, Georgia. O'Connor and Milledgeville are both crafted with great care and grace; it is evident the author not only researched her subjects, but...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The sleepy town of Milledgeville, Georgia, circa 1960, is about to get a colossal wake-up call. Tectonic shifts in social dynamics and behavior will disrupt the civil order of its typically complacent peace. The high-pitched yowls heard at the center of town were previously the exclusive domain of author Flannery O'Connor's peacocks, housed on a 544-acre farm in Andalusia, four miles northwest of the central rural sprawl. Now the muted laments of malcontents and smug inhabitants will create vast...more
Lu
A Good Hard Look completely lived up to every single expectation I had. In fact, it might have exceeded them. I am always wary of historical fiction novels that feature real-life people. In the case of A Good Hard Look, that person is Flannery O’Connor. I’ve haven't read much by Flannery O'Connor, just a story here and there, but I’ve been intrigued by her for a while now. A Good Hard Look just made me more interested in O’Connor and her fiction.

The separate plots in this novel weave together be...more
Diane

A Good Hard Look is an amazing story that just might be my favorite book of 2011. The novel is a work of fiction, with author Flannery O'Connor as a main character during the last few years of her life. A life cut short at 39, from complication of Lupus.

The story opens in the 1960's, to the sounds of many screeching peacocks, which belonged to Flannery O'Connor. The author lives with her mother Regina on their farm Andalusia - Milledgeville, Georgia. It is the evening before the wedding of Cooki...more
Sarah Beth
A Good Hard Look is set in the small southern town of Milledgeville, Georgia, the town where Flannery O'Connor spent most of her life, writing her novels and short stories on her peacock covered farm, Andalusia. This novel follows a fictional series of events in Flannery and her mother Regina's lives, as well as that of other Milledgeville residents including Melvin and Cookie Whiteson, Lona Waters, and Joe Treadle. There is considerable antagonism between Flannery and Cookie - from Flannery bec...more
Craig Amason
Flannery O'Connor is a fairly recent historical figure with a fan base that has expanded rapidly in recent years. Using her home town as a setting and figuring her prominently in a novel is bound to raise the eyebrows of her biggest fans and some of her contemporaries in Milledgeville, Georgia. Having said that, Napolitano's novel is a good read. She is a good writer, the story is compelling, and the reader finishes the book feeling positive about O'Connor.

There are some moments in the book whe...more
Joanne Guidoccio
Character driven fiction at its best.

Ann Napolitano has crafted a compelling novel in the style of Southern Gothic, incorporating author Flannery O’Connor and her mother Regina into fictional situations with a cast of unforgettable characters.

Young and beautiful Cookie Himmel is the quintessential Southern belle. During a disastrous New York experiment, she meets rich and handsome Melvin Whiteson who follows her back to Milledgeville. Determined to start anew in his wife’s hometown, Melvin find...more
Sandie
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...more
Vera
Follow all my reviews at LuxuryReading.com

A Good Hard Look is Ann Napolitano’s second novel and is structured around the actual life of Flannery O’Conner. She was in fact diagnosed with lupus at the age of twenty-five and moved home to Andalusia where she continued to write, and to “collect” a large flock of birds. These birds, and specifically peacocks, are featured heavily in the novel; their shrilling cries coincide with momentous occasions in Milledgeville, both good and heartbreakingly bad.
...more
Robin
This was definately a Goodread. Put into my hand by my eldest nephew, I totally enjoyed this story written by an author that I had never read before.
Set in Millidgeville, GA (is there such a town),it is about life in a very tightly-knit community. What happens when everything changes because of choices that characters make? Everything changes in an instant, and nothing can be altered in the state before. People are changed forever.
Wonderful writing. Thought-provoking and insiteful. I enjoyed i...more
Laura
Jan 03, 2011 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Indie White Box ARC
Starts out really well. A southern night electrified by the screaming of peacocks, a bride-to-be huddles on the floor besieged by nerves and bedeviled by the crying of the peaccoks. A fine wedding marred by a bruised and swollen eye and an unusual gift.

Ann Napolitano's new book, A Good Hard Look, is taut, relevant, and richly imagined. This novel, set in Flannery O'Connor's hometown of Milledgeville is emotoinally-charged and exceptionally well written. I hums with life. Under Naploitano's clos...more
Laura Harrington
A gorgeous, profound book. A GOOD HARD LOOK is a book that allows us to experience lives that are deeply human and flawed and full of hope and grief and anguish and possibility. Every character confronts their best and worst selves. This is no small feat. And the fact that every character is grieving and yet we are left with a sense of hard-won hope and a sense that yes, there is reason to have faith in something deeper, something more, something indefinable and inexpressible, but no less essent...more
Carla Plaster-camp
The author, Ann Napolitano blends fiction and a real person, Flannery O'Connor. The story is based in a sleepy small southern town in Georgia. Life around town gets a exciting with the return of one of the town's beautiful daughters, Cookie. Cookie left right after high school and moved to New York City to find herself. She returns to town bringing her handsome prince who just happens to be the sole heir of a wealthy banking family from New York. The wedding; the likes of which the town hasn't s...more
Terri
A very cleverly written novel about Flannery O'Connor and the town she returned to when she was diagnosed with lupus.

She uses the people of Milledgeville, Georgia, it seems, for the characters in her stories. Cookie Himmel is positive that she is Sabbath Lily from Wise Blood. And she hates Flannery for writing her like that, for being able to see right through to her heart, to who she really is.

Cookie meets her wealthy husband, Melvin Whiteson, in Manhattan just as she is ready to"become an old...more
Kim
I enjoyed this book very much. There were some things I felt were inconsistent with the time setting, but the story was quite engaging. I liked the references to O'Connor's writing and found it plausible that she may have written in the fashion the author described. Parts were heart wrenching and elicited emotions that I don't usually have when reading fiction. Maybe it was the Milledgeville connection. I recommend it as a good read!
Gaylen
So glad we picked this for book club. Haven't read much Flannery O'Connor, but this fictional account of her brings her and the small town she lived in very much to life. Interesting characters, fascinating stories and a most enjoyable and thought provoking read.
Lori
Excellent fictional account featuring Flannery O'Connor as a main character. I really enjoyed this one. More review to come.
Cia
Great story. Great writing. Character development was excellent too.
T. Greenwood
This follows the intersecting lives of southern writer, Flannery O'Connor, and a cast of Napolitano's fictional creations. Set in small town Georgia, the novel opens and closes with the riotous cacophony of O'Connor's famous peacocks. In between are the stories of three families. There is a great tragedy about 2/3 of the way through, and then a lengthy (though ultimately satisfying) resolution. The pacing felt a little too languid for me...but it's a book about the south, and so I suppose that's...more
Karolyn Sherwood
I am so happy I "met" Ann Napolitano through Twitter. If I hadn't, I don't think I would have purchased, read, and loved her book.

A Good Hard Look is set in Milledgeville, Georgia in the early 60s. Cookie, the protagonist is a "frenemy" of Flannery O'Connor. The two women "grew up together", but the story takes place when they are both in their 30s. The story is bittersweet and very engaging.

This is where I must confess that I have never read any of Flannery O'Connor's work. (I was not an Engli...more
Lindsey Stefan
Flannery O’Conner is obviously a huge literary presence, and Ms. Napolitano brings her to life beautifully without going overboard. Flannery becomes a sort of impetus for the rest of the characters – while parts of the novel are very much about her experiences and thoughts, much of the action is what others do as a result of Flannery (and her beloved peacocks). Because she is a strong presence, people either are drawn to her or they despise her.

The characters in the novel seem reminiscent of O’...more
Betty
I got hooked by Ann Napolitano's writing from the first pages. A Good Hard Look is a novel inspired and featuring Flannery O'Connor. I studied O'Connor's work plus edited correspondence at university, plus I live in Jacksonville, FL, which is regarded by many to be more like Georgia than Florida, and Milledgeville GA is where Flannery O'Connor was raised and mostly lived. So the hook was set especially deep.

Mainly, tho, it's the writing that got to me. Take this paragraph:

"The air in the car, e...more
Pamela Barrett
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,...more
Marvin
This novel is set in Milledgeville, Georgia, home of Flannery O'Connor, in the early 1960s. O'Connor is neither the protagonist nor merely a walk-on character. She's at the heart of the story, but so are a number of other characters, who for the first 2/3 of the novel, drive the novel more than the story itself. The perspective shifts (though always in third person) among a variety of characters; that shifting perspective is managed well by the author. The characters most at the heart of the nov...more
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Q&A with Ann ...: Welcome! 4 7 Aug 15, 2011 07:20AM  
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Ann Napolitano is the author of the novels A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach. She received an MFA from New York University; she teaches fiction writing for New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and for Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
More about Ann Napolitano...
Within Arm's Reach: A Novel

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“God is not here to be demanded of, begged from, or criticized. He hands out burdens to those who are strong enough to carry them, and I feel profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of lining up with the other invalids and asking for mine to be alleviated.” 7 likes
“Hope may have a positive reputation, but it has a vicious downside. If you have hope, you can be crushed.” 4 likes
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