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Book Review: The Irresistible Henry House, By Lisa Grunwald

Our crit's thoughts on a new novel that will "make you wish the author would write a thousand more pages"


The Irresistible Henry House

By Lisa Grunwald

A truly good book makes you stay up late, miss your train stop, forget the weather. It makes you wish the author would write a thousand more pages, just letting the characters’ lives roll on and on as if they were friends you can catch up with all at once. I felt this way about The Irresistible Henry House, the new novel by Lisa Grunwald. It’s been compared to John Irving’s classic The World According to Garp, and the similarities are less direct references and more pleasant reminders of Irving’s best novel (arguably). Grunwald eases along the story of Henry, opening in his infancy, where he is a “house baby” for the fictional Wilton College. This was, apparently, a real practice in the ’50s and ’60s, where orphaned babies were given over to Home Ec programs so young women could learn and practice modern child-raising skills. The babies were then more desirable to be adopted, having been “trained” and all. Henry House, however, stays on at the practice house and is adopted by the stern, childless teacher, Martha, who ends up being the quintessential clingy mother. He grows up with a million practice mothers, charming them from a young age—a skill that carries over to his dealings with the fairer sex as he grows up. Henry is a charismatic character and it is a pleasure to shadow him as he lands a job at Disney in the ’50s and then moves to London for the Swinging ’60s, chock full of go-go boots and Beatles cameos. Grunwald ends the story as Henry reaches his mid-20s, but hey, I’m a dreamer: Maybe she has a sequel (or two) in the works.


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