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A Good Hard Look

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  1,151 Ratings  ·  270 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

Hardcover, 326 pages
Published July 7th 2011 by Penguin Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Aug 08, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Erika Robuck
Sep 19, 2011 Erika Robuck rated it really liked it
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
Sep 07, 2011 Katrina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“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
switterbug (Betsey)
Aug 17, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
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
Linda Lipko
Aug 27, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Terrill Persky
Mar 12, 2015 Terrill Persky rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Robbin Stott
Reminiscent of Paris Wife and Loving Frank, A Good Hard Look, stars Flannery O'Connor in a supporting role. Main character Melvin Whiteson and new wife Cookie have returned from NYC to her hometown of Milledgeville, GA to start their lives together. You can't make up a name like Milledgeville and in fact it was the real hometown of Flannery O'Connor who herself returned there from New York when she was diagnosed with lupus which ultimately claimed her life. Melvin forms an unlikely and secret fr ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Janet rated it really liked it
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
Laura Harrington
Jul 25, 2011 Laura Harrington rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 28, 2015 Paula rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-books
I only give 5 stars to books worthy of a second read, and this one certainly is. This is considered historical fiction because one of the characters is the writer, Flannery O'Conner, but it is so much more. The writing is excellent with such well-developed, complex characters and a thoroughly engaging story until the very last page. I was truly touched by the vulnerability and honesty of all the characters. I will remember this book long after I return it to the library.
Jennifer D.
Jan 04, 2016 Jennifer D. rated it really liked it
i don't know about you, but if i am going into a fictionalized version of flannery o'connor, i go in expecting things to be a bit dark and twisty. so i am glad ann napolitano went down those paths and embraced the complicated and more wicked/sad sides of life. while o'connor is part of a larger cast of characters, and the novel isn't solely about her, i enjoyed the portrait created in this book and she certainly serves as the centre around which the action and characters move. having read much o ...more
Chris Blocker
Jan 18, 2014 Chris Blocker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sa-barer
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
Jul 11, 2011 Leslie rated it it was amazing
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
Pamela Barrett
Jul 11, 2011 Pamela Barrett rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 18, 2011 Diane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: a-favorite-read

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
Sarah Beth
May 10, 2013 Sarah Beth rated it really liked it
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
Jul 08, 2011 Craig Amason rated it liked it
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
Joanne Guidoccio
Jun 25, 2013 Joanne Guidoccio rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 2012 Sandie rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 20, 2011 Robin rated it really liked it
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
Jan 03, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 20, 2015 Silvertop rated it liked it
The most interesting thing about this book is the author's use of a real, famous Southern writer, Flannery O'Connor, as one of the main characters in her novel A Good Hard Look. The story is set around the lives of Flannery, her mother, a stereotypical Southern belle named Cookie, Cookie's husband Melvin, and Lona, a joint-smoking curtain seamstress and her teenage assistant Joe. Tragedy strikes the small community in Georgia where the story is set, and the tragedy is a result of the characters' ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Agatha rated it it was amazing
This book may not be for everyone, but I liked it a lot. Southern Gothic written really well with some tight symmetry. It was clear a lot of thought was put into this book, and I appreciated that. Author tells the story of a snapshot of writer Flannery O’Connor’s life – all in the method and style of O’Connor’s writing itself. As such, it’s a bit dark, a bit negative, a bit caustic, a bit judgmental. But I liked it. It was thought-provoking and different. Lots of thoughts were running through my ...more
Carla Plaster-camp
Apr 20, 2014 Carla Plaster-camp rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 10, 2014 Terri rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, flannery
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
Aug 19, 2015 Cathy added it
This was indeed a good read! I have been interested in the writing of Flannery O'Conor for a long time and this has prompted me to relook at some of her writing. At first I thought that I couldn't relate to any of the characters in the book, but as I read on I found myself drawn into the story and the characters. I found myself struck by and needing to re-read many observations and insights that seemed to capture issues we all wrestle with. A good read - that I will probably read again.
Jul 13, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
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!
Mar 26, 2015 Jennie rated it really liked it
A Good Hard Look begins with the squawking of peacocks. They were so loud that all of Milledgeville heard them in the night. The birds kept people awake, put them on edge, and gave them pause, wondering why in the world someone would find the animals soothing. But Flannery did, and not only did she have a large collection of peacocks, she also had a menagerie of other fowl – ducks, geese, chickens, whatever. They roamed the farm outside town where she lived with her mother. Flannery wrote and te ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 31, 2011 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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.
Michele True
Jun 11, 2016 Michele True rated it really liked it
I originally ordered this book as part of research I was conducting into Flannery O'Connor. I can't tell you how delighted I was to find a novel created around Midgeville and the lives that intersect physically and spiritually. Napolitano did a great job in this well-crafted novel, and as someone who feels like she knows quite a bit (but not enough) about Flannery, I enjoyed her very accurate inclusion of the author's personality and proclivities. I'm also very happy that Napolitano gave her a g ...more
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Q&A with Ann Napo...: Welcome! 4 8 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.
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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.” 10 likes
“Hope may have a positive reputation, but it has a vicious downside. If you have hope, you can be crushed.” 6 likes
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