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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (670 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ann Napolitano Narrator: Debra Monk Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2011 ISBN: 9781101494103
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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 twenty-five, 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.

And Melvin isn’t 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.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Flannery O’Connor fans will be drawn to this fictionalized version of her later years as a strong-willed, deeply lonely genius.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “To brand this a quaint period piece…would be doing Napolitano’s evocative tale of friendship and community a disservice.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Napolitano makes no attempt to mimic O’Connor’s singular style, but she does succeed in creating a wholly believable world shaped by duty, small pleasures, and fateful choices.”

    O Magazine

  • Selected for the July 2011 Indie Next List
  • A 2011 NPR Best Book
  • Recommended on Oprah’s Summer Reading List in 2011

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cathy Hartle | 2/14/2014

    " Well-written; kept my attention; very picturesque telling of a thought-provoking story. Really intriguing way of bringing a real person into this novel as a key character. Look forward to discussing at our book club. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Heatherherwig | 2/14/2014

    " so many people loved this book. I did not. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Yancey | 2/12/2014

    " I guess I'm on a streak of reading fictional books about actual people. Flannery O'Connor is one of the main characters in this book, and she's just as strange as you imagine she would be. I liked the book... good, interesting characters. But like an O'Connor story, tragedy strikes quickly and pretty unexpectedly. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 2/9/2014

    " Good book about how life can change in a matter of minutes. Set in Milledgevile Ga and with Flannery OConner as a character, the well crafted story reminds me a little of Flannery's stories but the characters are able to redeem themselves in the end. Good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amy | 1/29/2014

    " Fictional account of the life of Flannery O'Connor, when she returns to Milledgeville, Georgia, from NYC. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shirley | 1/22/2014

    " First book written by Ann Napolitano in Flannery O'Connor style that includes Flannery O'Connor as a character. Set in Milledgeville in the 1960s with quirky characters and a "typical" major plot twist half way through the book. Worth "A Good Hard Look!" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debby | 1/17/2014

    " wonderfully written story centered around Flannery and Regina O'Connor - unclear how much is historical fiction and how much is just pure fiction. still researching... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 1/15/2014

    " A wonderful book based on the lives of several people living in the same town as Flannery O'Connor. Great example of plots arcing and interweaving in a convincing and compelling way. I was drawn to care about each of the many characters, although especially O'Connor herself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashlea (plotdriven.com) | 1/14/2014

    " Wasn't sure how I'd feel about Flannery O'Connor as a fictional character, but I enjoyed her place in this book. She was both outside of life but instigator of changes within the lives of an intriguing set of people. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 D | 1/1/2014

    " This story was as uncomfortable, perhaps more so, as one of Flannery O' Connor's. Although I will say the writing itself was good...I did not care for the story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amanda Nan Dillon | 10/23/2013

    " Not gonna lie, I picked up this book solely for the peacock that adorns the cover. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 8/9/2013

    " Nice blend of history/ fiction "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alma | 8/8/2013

    " Although it took me a few chapters to get into it, this fictional tale about the small town where Flannery O'Connor lived is more than a great read--it's literature. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jana | 6/14/2013

    " I'm reading this for the BlogHer book review series, but am worried I won't finish in time! I do love me some Flanner O'Connor, though, even if she's just a character. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 2/24/2013

    " this story sucks you in, while you feel like you know each character and can feel their emotions. You see everyone's point of view without judging them. Loved it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cathy Napolitano | 12/4/2012

    " A Good Hard Look is on Oprah's summer reading list for July 2011. In addition, it has been selected as a July Indie Next List Pick and an Okra selection! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Catherine | 6/25/2012

    " Fascinating how an author can weave a story around the life of another author. I enjoyed learning more about Flannery O'Connor. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hollis | 2/12/2012

    " THis is a fictional story based on the life of Flannery O'Connor. THe writing is beautiful and the story is well-crafted. I can't wait to read something else by her "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 2/3/2012

    " Interesting premise, good story, overall a solid book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pattie | 12/17/2011

    " I'd actually give this 3.5 stars. I liked it, and I disliked it. I liked the characters and the use of O'Connor's own themes, but there were elements that seemed "off" also. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Willow | 11/3/2011

    " This is a great book. The author beautifully channels Flannery O'Connor, and I'm inspired to read books by and about this Southern author. I was riveted. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lois | 10/19/2011

    " One of the best books I have read in a very long time. Thank you Erin. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Adelaide | 10/4/2011

    " Characters are stark, story line melancholic, writing enjoyable. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Heatherherwig | 9/26/2011

    " so many people loved this book. I did not. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debby | 9/25/2011

    " wonderfully written story centered around Flannery and Regina O'Connor - unclear how much is historical fiction and how much is just pure fiction. still researching... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashlea | 9/17/2011

    " Wasn't sure how I'd feel about Flannery O'Connor as a fictional character, but I enjoyed her place in this book. She was both outside of life but instigator of changes within the lives of an intriguing set of people. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Stephen | 9/15/2011

    " It's well written, but at one point it gets real depressing very suddenly, and then never climbs back out of that ditch (at least, not far enough to really be satisfying). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathryn | 9/9/2011

    " Of the three fictional literary histories I've stumbled upon this year, this one featuring Flannery O'Connor is by far the most palatable and makes me want to re-read all her stories. Napolitano offers great insights on what motivated O'Connor to shed such a harsh light on her fellows. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathy | 9/8/2011

    " Liked these believable characters and the quick story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melanie | 9/7/2011

    " Life in Milledgeville, in the early 1960's. Smoke pot, commit adultery, or get involved in local politics, take your pick.

    I do appreciate Mrs. Regina O'Connor much more and am interested in her life after reading this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 9/5/2011

    " I love reading about authors, and this book with Flannery O'Connor as a main character prompted me to get out my copy of her collected stories. I enjoyed the way the author weaves O'Connor into this novel set in Milledgeville, Georgia. Very original. "

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About the Author
Author Ann Napolitano

Ann Napolitano is a graduate of Connecticut College and received her MFA from New York University. She lives in New York City with her family.