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Editorial 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

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.

©2010 Lisa Grunwald (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Thought It Was Purely Chic Lit. Wrong.

Hey, if anything, this is pure guy lit. Guys can see their complex relationships with the opposite sex in this fantastically novel novel.

Story? First rate. I will admit to losing the line a few times but that wasn't important. I wanted to dislike Henry but couldn't. The author does a brilliant job of infecting the reader with his "charm".

And what a statement on men, women, relationships, childhood! Author Grunwald hits so many notes perfectly right down to descriptions of events that anyone who lived through any part of this period will be able to see, smell, taste---you'll just know it's right.

Nothing is contrived. That is brilliant writing. Read it for that alone and you'll be enriched.

Great book.

Chris Reich,

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


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.

37 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Baby Voices with Grown-Up Gender Politics

I enjoyed the first few chapters of this book, and I admired Oliver Wyman's narration, which gave a documentary-like feel to the story. But I started to lose heart when young Henry and young Mary Jane started to talk: maybe there's not much a narrator can do with little kid voices. But I just don't buy the weird love triangle that Grunwald set up; it felt like a plot device. The children felt too much like stereotypical grown-ups: detached boy, lovesick girl. In a novel about the ways that theories of children get in the way of how we experience children, I found this to be particularly disturbing, and I lost my trust in the author.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Oh Henry

A fun read. Not the kind of story that will stay with me forever, but I was very entertained.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Shirley
  • San Antonio, TX, United States
  • 05-02-10

Could have been a good book

This book had an interesting beginning. The idea of orphans being used as subjects for home economics classes at a university for a year or two before being sent out for adoption, conjurs up all sorts of possibilities. The character of Henry House who remained at at he university and suffered emotional problems could have been carried over to explore the effect of this program on other "house babies." Instead,the second half of the book, was devoted to Henry's sexual escapades. Enough Already! You can stop listening after the first half of the book as the second half consists of weak and boring sexual exploits.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Mon
  • San Francisco, Ca
  • 03-12-12

3.5 Stars!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes definitely. In fact I have already told a few friends about this book. I really enjoyed it despite some flaws with the story. It is an ambitious book. The story is about Henry, an irresistible young man who is unable to attach himself to anyone because of his upbringing in a practice house (very interesting). What I didn't like about the book is that the author is always reminding you that Henry is irresistible instead of allowing the story to unfold and the character to develop and grow on you so that you can make your own emotional connection. I liked the character. He is likeable but I didn't see what was SO special or charming about him. With that said, there is more to like in this audio than not - I liked the cultural references, the practice house, the babies, the changing philosophies of how to raise babies, and the ability or lack thereof to love and be able to attach yourself to another person in an authentic way based on your experience as a baby. Plus the narrator is amazing. I want to listen to more Oliver Wyman.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

While I was hoping for a different ending, it was in its own way fitting.

Have you listened to any of Oliver Wyman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No but I will. He was amazing. He brought the story to life.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Not sure, but I think this book could make for a very good movie.

Any additional comments?

I really did like this book and think it is worth the listen. It is a slow start but once it picks up, it is hard to put down.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Elisabeth
  • Durham, NC, United States
  • 03-22-11

Henry is Irresistible!

I really enjoyed Henry House and was intrigued by its premise. It is a well written, entertaining story of attachments, decisions and how we grow from them (or don't grow!) I enjoyed rollicking into the 60s with Henry. I can't think of the last time I got choked up at the end of a book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great start, ho-hum finish

Based on the first half hour of this book, I thought I would love this story. The main idea is based on a bit of history (there were, in fact, "practice babies" used by home economics programs) and runs along beautifully until the main character, Henry, starts to move toward his teens. At this point, the author seems to get bored with her original storyline, and instead crafts Henry into someone rather drab, predictable, and unlikable. To me, the character felt inconsistent from his early descriptions and lacked growth throughout. Despite this flaw, I did enjoy the author's use of historical events throughout the tale (somewhat reminiscent of Forrest Gump), and especially the foray into the inner workings of Disney in the 60s. The reader did a great job with what he had to work with, and the pace and intonation were well done.

Five stars for the beginning, dragged down to three by a lack of good character development midway through to the end. I felt like the author lost her passion for this story somewhere along the way, and made up for it with an over-focus on historical events. Not a bad listen, but there are definitely better options out there.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kim
  • Granada Hills, CA, USA
  • 07-17-10

Funny and Smart

Wonderful book for anyone interested in child development. Funny & smart.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • sarahmoose2000
  • 08-11-15

Mothers and Sons

This only got a two star rating in a previous review, don't let that dissuade you.

A university does a home economics course where part of the curriculum is raising a child. Each year the orphanage delivers a new baby and the year Henry arrives, the professor takes him on permanently as her son.

We grow up with Henry and feel his angst at being an emotional crutch for his mother, then his pain at trying to find his biological mother. There are parts where you don't find him "irresistible" as in the title as he is a bit of a slapper when it coms to women; but overall it's a good listen.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful