Nick Hornby – “How To Be Good” [Book Review]

It took me months longer than it should have, but I finally finished reading Nick Hornby’s How To Be Good. While that in itself does not bode well for a review, I should say it took a long time because it was a very challenging read. Unlike most of the light-hearted culture I tend to soak up, this actually made me uncomfortable.

I picked it up because I love live by High Fidelity. I’ve read it more than any other book and generally plan to read it once a year. Thinking I might enjoy more of Hornby’s work, I tried About a Boy at a friend’s recommendation. I couldn’t get into it, but might try it again down the line. I picked up Juliet, Naked and really dug that. As it turns out, Hornby writes great female protagonists and How To Be Good was the next title of his that I saw.

How To Be Good follows Kate, a hard working suburban doctor, devoted wife, and mother of two, who’s husband, David, is a less-than-successful, angry and cynical writer who takes a turn for the righteous. Or is it self-righteous? He meets a healer, of sorts, that leads him to live what he believes to be a more charitable life. Problems begin when he does stuff that generally makes his wife and kids a little uncomfortable like giving away big ticket stuff that’s not quite canned food. Sounds totally innocent, right?

The uncomfortable moments in the book are the series of arguments he has with his wife and you’re just not sure who’s more right. Kate who professionally helps people or David who gives away his kids toys. The conversations are really powerful and it makes you question whether or not you’re ever “doing the right thing.” I think this is good, but you can imagine why I had long breaks between spurts of reading. Read it.

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