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
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.
©2010 Lisa Grunwald (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"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)
I just finished this audiobook and I am recommending it to everyone I know! The characters are engaging and the story moves at the perfect pace.
The story's main character Henry House was neither irresistible or charming. It was difficult to develop any positive feelings, understanding or sympathy for any of the characters in the book.
I love Grunwald's story structure, marrying Henry's life with historic and cultural moments, including society's movement away from the very mindset that was the basis for his early life. Unfortunately, I didn't fully feel invested in the main character's development; I worry the author was so intent on making Henry seem understandably detached from others that she protected his inner self (and, therefore, most interesting emotions) even from her readers. The audiobook narrator seems to me an intriguing mix between Casey Kasem and David McCullough, which lends to the story an appropriate blend of romance, whimsy and relevance but in its own way contributes to the emotional stiffness. I am glad I listened, even if I wish the main character were a little more accessible to the reader/listener.
Henry House is, actually, quite resistible. The idea presented at the beginning -- that Henry, like many others, is an orphaned child who starts his life as the "practice baby" for students in a college home economics program -- seemed very clever. However, the book falls off from there. The rest of the story is a very dull account of him going through life. Given it takes place in the 50's and 60's, and there's plenty of sex and drugs, you'd think that would help the tempo of the story, but somehow even those aspects of his life seem blah. Plus, his general indifference to everyone around him makes him an unsympathetic character. I almost didn't finish the book, but I kept thinking that something was going to happen to make it better. It probably would have seemed like less of a slog with a less monotonous narrator, but even the best of narrators would have had a tough time with this material.
Two hours in and I had to give it up. I don't mind slow (just finished A Prayer for Owen Meany and that probably redefines 'slow' but found it an excellent book) but the tedious got to me.
However, this is not to say that, had I lasted the distance, I would have been able to write a more positive review.
Always reading. Audiobooks in the car, in the kitchen, in the sewing room, and paper books in every room in the house.
This book caught my imagination and carried through with great humor, wonderful visuals of the era of 50's and 60's and compelling characters. The story line was interesting, too. I was thoroughly entertained.
No - I enjoyed it the first time but it's not as if I feel I would gain better insight the next time. I felt the story was easy to follow and so lended itself well to an audio book.
Yes - as a departure from my sci-fi reading this book was a nice change of pace.
I've never listened to Oliver Whyman before but I enjoyed his characterizations.
I enjoyed the first time I listened to this book but probably won't listen to it again.
Cider House Rules
The range of voices this reader can do is impressive.
I don't know if I would like to visit with any of these quirky characters.
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