After finishing “How to Be Good” by Nick Hornby late last night, I am further from understanding how to be good than I ever was. Nick Hornby is also the author of other piercingly observant, and enjoyable books like High Fidelity, but he writes a lousy how-to manual, instead raising questions about the goodness of being good. I know – that’s the point – and I get it, but it’s like someone opening the blinds or turning on a bright light in the morning. It’s good for me, but really, I was enjoying my sleep.
The story is about a ‘good’ person – a doctor, with a nice, normal family and a nice, normal life right up until she has an affair, and her husband has a spiritual revelation at the hands of a alternative healer named GoodNews. Suddenly the definition of ‘good’ gets tossed into the air and beaten up a bit. Helping the homeless is good, but inviting them into your house and letting them steal what they think is your emergency money?
And then, the book doesn’t even have the decency of ending properly – in a way that is also disturbingly real-life, but if I stay up late to finish books I like to be rewarded with an ending. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but although the story definitely has a denouement, it sort of dodges the conclusion, leaving me with a hanging feeling.
My own conclusion? It’s a ‘good book’, but I didn’t really enjoy it very much.