cover image I’ve Tried Being Nice: Essays

I’ve Tried Being Nice: Essays

Ann Leary. S&S/Rucci, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-1-9821-2034-4

This winning essay collection from novelist Leary (The Foundling) riffs on the trifles and tribulations of her life. The title essay describes her efforts to stop being a people pleaser, offering a comical account of how she worked up the gumption to confront a woman whose off-leash dogs habitually agitated Leary’s. Self-deprecating humor is a near constant throughout, as in “Coming of Age,” where Leary recounts how she temporarily stopped dyeing her gray hair when she was in her early 50s: “All the adoring attention I received during my years as a silver fox was from men who were between eighty and a hundred years old.” Other pieces reflect on Leary’s marriage to actor Denis Leary, touching on red carpet mishaps (“We... learned the hard way that it’s best for the famous person or people to step out of a vehicle first”) and how playing tennis together helped save their relationship. A few of the selections strike a more somber tone, as when Leary discusses her alcoholism and discovering as an adult her uncle and grandmother’s troubled pasts, but lighthearted commentary predominates (recalling her first night as an empty nester: “I uttered the words my husband had waited twenty years for me to say: ‘Let’s watch TV while we eat’ ”). The humor lands and the lithe prose elevates Leary’s musings on life’s mundanities. This is a gem. Agent: Margaret Riley King, WME. (June)