Hildy Good has two tricks to find out anything about anyone. First, as the top real estate agent in her area, she's able to figure out more than you'd think by looking at the condition of someone's house, including the state of their health, or the state of their marriage. And second, she claims to be a mind-reader. Oh sure, it's just a party trick that involves being very good at interpreting micro-expressions and body language, but with her skills and the fact that her ancestor was Sarah Good, who was among the first to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials, she's managed to convince more than a few people.
But is Hildy as good at concealing her own secrets as she is at uncovering everyone else's? She has more than a few things to hide, mostly relating to her alcoholism. A couple of years ago, her grown-up children and their spouses confronted her about her drinking, and she was sent to rehab for a month. She has spent the intervening time pretending to be in recovery, but in reality, she's just stopped drinking in public. She has set lots of boundaries for herself: she only drinks at home alone, she only drinks wine, she never drinks before 5:00 p.m. And she's keeping people at arm's length, too, mostly so they won't catch on that she's not really sober. But when she forms a close friendship with the unhappy young wife of a very rich older man to whom she recently sold a house (more like an estate), and when she takes up again with her ex-boyfriend (of nearly forty years), the town's general handyman, more secrets than just her drinking threaten to spill out. Can Hildy hold it together?
The Good House is very engagingly written. Hildy is perhaps not the most likeable or self-aware character, but her observations are sharp and witty, even (or maybe especially) when she's been drinking. Both the characters and Hildy's hometown are so richly drawn by author Ann Leary that perhaps it's not surprising that the novel is slated to be made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro.