GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

February 14, 2013

A townie at heart Ann Leary writes 'The Good House,' set partly in Essex

A lot of people think they see themselves, or someone they know, in Ann Leary’s new novel “The Good House.”

The main character, Hildy Good, is a real estate agent on the North Shore, and Leary has received a number of emails from readers claiming to know who Hildy is in real life. “They all think it’s them,” Leary said.

There’s only one problem with these theories.

“I don’t know any real estate brokers on the North Shore,” said Leary.

But readers will not be mistaken if they see sights and places from Essex County on every page of the novel, which is Leary’s second and follows a memoir that she published in 2004.

“It’s wonderful because I’ve received so many nice emails, saying it’s fun to recognize landmarks I didn’t name,” said Leary, 50, who lives in Connecticut now with her husband, comedian Denis Leary.

She knows the North Shore because her family moved to Marblehead from Wisconsin when Leary was 14, after her father transferred to a job at Gillette in Boston. She attended public schools in Marblehead for two years before enrolling at Dana Hall, a private school in Wellesley.

She met Denis Leary in a comedy-writing class he was teaching at Emerson College before his career took off, leading to starring roles in movies and television.

Leary’s mother, Judith Howe, and sister, Meg Seminara, still live in Marblehead, but that isn’t the setting of “The Good House.”

The town where Hildy sells real estate, Wendover, sounds like Andover but looks a lot like Ipswich.

“I took riding lessons up in Ipswich,” Leary said. “When we would go up there, I loved it there. That’s what I drew on, memories of that.”

Leary even included “a fake Crane’s Beach” in the novel, but said she also used aspects of Essex in creating Wendover, along with elements of her town in Connecticut.

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