Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
Ann Barons thinks she has the perfect life. The envy of the neighbourhood, Ann is glamorous and married to successful and handsome businessman Mike. Along with their teenage children, Ann and Mike live in a large, luxurious house and never have to worry about money. Ann spends her days working out at the gym, meeting friends for lunch and shopping. However, one phone call from her mother threatens to shatter Ann’s idyllic lifestyle.
Eileen has been struggling as her husband’s dementia deteriorates, but she has organised accommodation for them both at Meadowbrook, an assisted-living community. The only problem is Eileen and Sam need to wait a few months before they can move in and, as Eileen can no longer cope with Sam alone, she asks Ann if they can move in with her and the family temporarily. Ann doesn’t want the disruption of having them but agrees, putting them up in the guest house. Ann soon resents their presence as she finds it difficult to face what the illness is doing to her father, and her mother’s skills in the home only highlight Ann’s failings.
When I picked up The Good Life, I expected Ann to be a superficial character who spends more time at the gym and shopping than with her children before her mother sweeps in and shows her the error of her ways. However, very little changes from the beginning of the book to the end. Ann’s flaws as a mother are highlighted, but she does nothing to mend her ways and she remains selfish and materialistic throughout. Ann resents her mother being there and I couldn’t blame her most of the time as Eileen did elbow her way into the family, taking over even when Ann asked her to back off. Eileen probably thought she was helping, but she could be irritating at times. An example of this was at Thanksgiving. Ann didn’t want the fuss of having to cook a huge meal for everybody so she had planned for caters to provide the meal, but Eileen insisted she cook it all herself from scratch and then ‘expected’ Ann’s help in the kitchen all day.
I failed to connect with any of the characters as I found them all unlikable. I felt sorry for Eileen and her situation with Sam, but I couldn’t have lived with her any more than Ann could. The only character I almost liked was Ann and Mike’s daughter, Lauren, and their son Nate did start to grow on me towards the end as his relationship with his grandfather strengthened.
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