In Flannery O'Connor's hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia, reckless relationships lead to a tragedy that forever alters the town and the author herself.
Crippled by lupus at 25, celebrated author Flannery O'Connor was forced to leave New York City and return home to Andalusia, her family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. Years later, as Flannery is finishing a novel and tending to her menagerie of peacocks, her mother drags her to the wedding of a family friend.
Cookie Himmel embodies every facet of Southern womanhood that Flannery lacks: she is revered for her beauty and grace; she is at the helm of every ladies' organization in town; and she has returned from her time in Manhattan with a rich fiancé, Melvin Whiteson. Melvin has come to Milledgeville to begin a new chapter in his life, but it is not until he meets Flannery that he starts to take a good hard look at the choices he has made. Despite the limitations of her disease, Flannery seems to be more alive than other people, and Melvin is drawn to her like a moth to a candle flame.
Melvin is not the only person in Milledgeville who starts to feel that life is passing him by. Lona Waters, the dutiful wife of a local policeman, is hired by Cookie to help create a perfect home. As Lona spends her days sewing curtains, she is given an opportunity to remember what it feels like to be truly alive, and she seizes it with both hands.
Heartbreakingly beautiful and inescapably human, these ordinary and extraordinary people chart their own courses through life. In the aftermath of one tragic afternoon, they are all forced to look at themselves and face up to Flannery's observation that "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."
After I read this book, I was surprised to learn that Flannery O'Connor actually lived and proved to be an accomplished writer (sorry for my poor education). Reading "A Good Hard Look: A Novel" which touched among other characters a year of Ms. O'Connor's life, I was constantly feeling lost: I could never predict the future of a character (any character), nor find anything in the character's past which would indicated their current behavior. The events seemed to be mysticized without apparent reason and author required the reader guessing about what turned to be expected.
I do not know how well Ms. Napolitano researched the time, place and the characters of her book, but I did not feel any specificity: until the very end I could not tell what decade the events were unfolding and what was specific to the place.
The narrator, Ms. Debra Monk, did a superb job in my opinion, her voice was clear and filled with feelings reflecting what proved to be I would miss from the text itself.