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The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

June 1, 2011

Right now there is a tornado watch in Boston and I’ve watched more of the news tonight than I have in probably a year. Kind of scary, but I figured this was as good a time as any to recap good old Henry House.

The Irresistible Henry House was the second book my Brunch Book Club selected. Written by Lisa Grunwald, this novel spans the first twenty-ish years of Henry House’s life. As a three month old, he is brought to the practice house of Wilton College’s Home Economics program. The women of the program take turns playing mother to Henry in week long increments until he is nearly two years old. Not surprisingly, this kind of screws the poor kid up.

Unlike the practice babies before and after him, Henry stays at the practice house past his second birthday. In an incredibly uncharacteristic move, Martha, the woman who leads the home economics program, can’t bear to see him go and finagles it so he can stay with her, although she does not legally adopt him. After two years of not forming any real bonds with other people, Henry’s childhood is riddled with feelings of indifference toward others. He doesn’t feel a loyalty or connection with anyone – not the kids in school, his teachers, or even Martha. In high school, he leaves Martha and the practice house to attend a boarding school and makes a few connections, although he can’t quite maneuver the relationships the way he would like. We then see him become more of his own person, use his talents to make a fulfilling living, and attempt to create relationships with others.

What I most liked about this novel is that Henry House navigates his way through history, kind of like how Forrest Gump hobnobs with John Lennon and creates the smiley face t-shirt. Watching Henry attempt to make his way through a murky life and try to form relationships even though it doesn’t come naturally to him, is an emotional journey. I was always routing for him, but was constantly nervous that it was all going to fall apart around him. I didn’t love the ending, but at least Grunwald didn’t wrap it all up in a neat little bow, which would have been the easy, cop-out, and – no offense – girly thing to do.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 2, 2011 10:52 am

    I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since I heard it spotlighted on NPR. It baffles me that this is based on actual events. Sounds like the author did an excellent job of keeping the writing and pacing interesting, especially since this could have turned out as an excessively long magazine article instead of an intriguing novel. I’m glad that the ending was realistic, which only seems right for a book based in truth. Great review!

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