The Irresistible Henry House

  • by Lisa Grunwald
  • Narrated by Oliver Wyman
  • 15 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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Audible Editor Reviews

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

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What the Critics Say

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

....tiresome....

The premise of The Irresistible Henry House is a good one; an orphaned infant is raised in a "Practice House" of a college Home Ec. program in the 40's. Unfortunately, my anticipation for a good yarn was extinguished after hours of the story meandering forward in time, with Henry House crossing paths with the cultural touchstones of the 40's, 50's and 60's. It was like Forrest Gump but without the whimsy and poignancy.
A goal of the story is to show how dispassionately Henry involves himself with the women in his life, indifferent to how destructive his detachment is. But Henry doesn't treat his conquests half as harshly as the author handles his main female characters. They are, for the most part, unattractive, distasteful, friendless women whose sin of aging is regularly pointed out.
The dialogue is not as revealing as it could be and if I was reading the text, I think I would have scanned the quotes to save time.
I would only recommend this if, for some reason, you specifically want a story with an obvious conclusion and that won't make many demands on your imagination. To be a bit misogynistic will help as well.
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- Cora Judd

Well worth your time and credit

I have listened to hundreds of audiobooks in the past few years, and this is the only one I've felt compelled to write a review on. I disagree with many of the other reviews for Henry House. I felt very sympathetic towards Henry, and his apparent inability to attach himself to others based upon his upbringing. The book did have bits and pieces that were reminiscent of Forrest Gump, however, it is a much different story. I don't want to give away the details of this remarkable book. All I'd like to suggest, is that if you are even slightly interested in reading this book, take the time to read other reviews. I went to another site and found glowing reviews for Henry House. I thought this was an excellent book.
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- Jennifer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-20-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios