“How to be good” by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby, the master of the light and ironic, has a very different creature in his new book, “How to be good”. It can’t really be enjoyed as a light comedy such as “High Fidelity”, as it’s implications are far too deep.

In this book, his characters careen between action and inaction, battered by bourgeois guilt. If you’ve ever walked by a homeless person and said to yourself, “What would happen if I took this person home?”, you should enjoy this book.


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In the opening of the book we meet our narrator, a surgeon and wife who is in the final stages of an unraveling marriage with two kids. Neither she nor her husband like spending time together, and anything seems more attractive than going home (like having an affair in a parking garage).

As the story continues, it gets worse. David, her husband, has an epiphany that he’s an ass after visiting a New Age healer named “GoodNews”. Needless to say, David begins changing his life around, and invites GoodNews to come live with the family, starts giving away their food and belongings, and generally tries to make up for a lifetime of not caring one whit for anyone else.

GoodNews is thrilled to have a cohort in his plan to make the world a better place (with someone else footing the bill) and so he and David begin to conspire on how to change the many problems of the world starting with the excessive belongings and money in David’s family. Throughout all of this, our narrator, David’s wife, tries to manage to force David to give her a divorce while trying not to be the curmudgeon explaining why they can’t just give all their money away to the poor.

Of course, I shouldn’t give away much of the plot. Pick it up if you have a chance, as it’s out in paperback now.

Books by Nick Hornby

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