It is the middle of the 20th century, and in a home economics program at a prominent university, real babies are being used to teach mothering skills to young women. For a young man raised in these unlikely circumstances, finding real love and learning to trust will prove to be the work of a lifetime. In this captivating novel, bestselling author Lisa Grunwald gives us the sweeping tale of an irresistible hero and the many women who love him.
From his earliest days as a practice baby through his adult adventures in 1960s New York City, Disney's Burbank studios, and the delirious world of the Beatles London, Henry remains handsome, charming, universally adored and never entirely accessible to the many women he conquers but can never entirely trust.
Filled with unforgettable characters, settings, and action, The Irresistible Henry House portrays the cultural tumult of the mid-20th century even as it explores the inner tumult of a young man trying to transcend a damaged childhood. For it is not until Henry House comes face-to-face with the real truths of his past that he finds a chance for real love.
In 1946, Martha Gaines, program director of home economics at Wilton College, receives her twelfth “practice” baby, Henry House an orphaned child ready to be raised by students in the course as practice for their future as mothers. Martha’s strict and unloving approach to child rearing, based on many of the parenting theories in this pre-Spock era, has no bearing on the fact that she falls deeply in love with little Henry, partly due to her life’s misfortune of losing her own child shortly after it was born. She convinces the dean to let her keep Henry after the two-year time limit and raise him as her own, but Henry quickly proves to be an unemotional little boy, who has trouble returning affections to any one woman. This theme follows him during his life’s journey as he’s shipped off to a school for troubled children, becomes a talented lover of women and through his character, exemplifies the 60s sexual revolution. As irresistible as he was as a snuggly infant, he proves to be equally so as a young man and adult.
Oliver Wyman’s deep voice lends a documentary-like quality to the novel appropriate as the story is based on the true use of “practice” babies at colleges in the 40s. Wyman’s slow and methodic story-telling is soothing and his wide range of vocal talents creates believable characters whether he’s imitating a woman’s voice or an infant’s (his baby cries are surprisingly life-like). His approach is warm and enveloping, making even the coldest of characters (like Martha Gaines) have something likeable about them.
This iconic novel is only enhanced by Wyman’s narration and is sure to become a favorite in American literature, among the likes of Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Colleen Oakley
"Like T.S. Garp, Forrest Gump or Benjamin Button, Henry House, the hero of Grunwald’s imaginative take on a little known aspect of American academic life, has an unusual upbringing....Grunwald nails the era just as she ingeniously uses Henry and the women in his life to illuminate the heady rush of sexual freedom (and confusion) that signified mid-century life." (Publishers Weekly)
"Irresistible." (Kathleen Daly, Newark Star-Ledger)
"The Irresistible Henry House is a soaring, heartfelt novel that spans three decades and an entire continent. Grunwald, author of several novels including Whatever Makes You Happy, creates a wholly original and all too human character in Henry House. Despite his quirks and shortcomings (or perhaps because of them), Henry is one of the most likeable, relatable characters in recent memory." (Amy Scribner, BookPage)
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- Cora Judd
Well worth your time and credit