A supposedly recovering alcoholic real estate agent tells her not-exactly-trustworthy version of life in her small New England town in this tragicomic novel by Leary (Outtakes from a Marriage, 2008, etc.).
Sixty-year-old Hildy Good, a divorced realtor who has lived all her life in Wendover on the Massachusetts North Shore, proudly points to having an ancestor burned at the stake at the Salem witch trials. In fact, her party trick is to do psychic readings using subtle suggestions and observational skills honed by selling homes. At first, the novel seems to center on Hildy’s insights about her Wendover neighbors, particularly her recent client Rebecca McAllister, a high-strung young woman who has moved into a local mansion with her businessman husband and two adopted sons. Hildy witnesses Rebecca having trouble fitting in with other mothers, visiting the local psychiatrist Peter Newbold, who rents an office above Hildy’s, and winning a local horse show on her expensive new mount. Hildy is acerbically funny and insightful about her neighbors; many, like her, are from old families whose wealth has evaporated. She becomes Rebecca’s confidante about the affair Rebecca is having with Peter, whom Hildy helped baby-sit when he was a lonely child. She helps another family who needs to sell their house to afford schooling for their special needs child. She begins an affair with local handyman Frankie Getchell, with whom she had a torrid romance as a teenager. But Hildy, who has recently spent a stint in rehab and joined AA after an intervention by her grown daughters, is not quite the jolly eccentric she appears. There are those glasses of wine she drinks alone at night, those morning headaches and memory lapses that are increasing in frequency. As both Rebecca’s and Hildy’s lives spin out of control, the tone darkens until it approaches tragedy. Throughout, Hildy is original, irresistibly likable and thoroughly untrustworthy.
Despite getting a little preachy toward the end, Leary has largely achieved a genuinely funny novel about alcoholism.