Reviews of The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

The Irresistible Henry House

A Novel

by Lisa Grunwald

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald X
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 432 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2011, 448 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Filled with unforgettable characters, settings, and action, The Irresistible Henry House portrays the cultural tumult of the mid-twentieth century even as it explores the inner tumult of a young man trying to transcend a damaged childhood.

It is the middle of the twentieth 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-twentieth 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.

Chapter One
Welcome Home, Henry

By the time Henry House was four months old, a copy of his picture was being carried in the pocketbooks of seven different women, each of whom called him her son.

The photograph showed Henry on the day he arrived at Wilton College in 1946. He was lying naked in his crib, his backside bare and sassy, his hair already shiny and dark, and his grin already firmly in place as he pulled up on his chubby hands and turned back toward the sound of his name.

Henry House was a practice baby, an orphan supplied by the local home for the purpose of teaching college women how to be proper mothers. For more than two decades, since the early 1920s, colleges across the country had offered home economics programs featuring practice kitchens, practice houses, and, sometimes, practice babies. Henry was the tenth such baby to come to the Wilton practice house. Like the other so-called House babies before him, he was expected to stay for two years and be tended to in week-long ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Trust is a recurring theme in Lisa Grunwald's novel. Which characters are most deeply affected by its presence or absence? What makes us trust another person, and what happens if that trust is betrayed? Can a relationship recover after trust has been broken?
  2. For Martha Gaines, "there was no future for her without Henry. There was only her tiny world, bordered by practice walls and practice floors." (p. 113) Why does Martha become so attached to Henry, and how would you describe their relationship?
  3. Is it possible to love a person too much? Have you ever felt smothered by love? Is there a secret to building a relationship where both people feel equally loved?
  4. According to Martha, "a child was ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Lisa Grunwald takes Henry's extraordinary beginnings and digs deep to carefully construct the strained cords of his early attachments. Carefully working the tension of Henry's liaisons, Grunwald expertly leaves the reader in possession of the damaged emotional compass Henry will use to plot the colorful course of his adult life. Regardless, as the irresistible Henry moves into adulthood, I was left wondering whether or not he is just charming and irresistible enough to excuse his lack of tack and bad behavior. If you're not easily wooed, you might find yourself questioning if Henry is man enough for you...continued

Full Review (565 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Megan Shaffer).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. The near-omniscient narration perfectly suits this story, which often reads like a rueful but wry case study of nurture as nightmare.

Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week
Starred Review. 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.

Library Journal
... a compelling web of characters and emotions that will please will please the author's fans and readers interested in novels with emotional depth.

Author Blurb Linda Fairstein, author of Lethal Legacy and Hell Gate
Brilliant and original, heartwarming and heartbreaking, this stunning novel is as irresistible as Henry House.

Author Blurb Liz Smith
At first I thought it was just Henry House who was completely irresistible, but then I realized I couldn't put Grunwald's truly extraordinary novel down. Get ready for a story, an adventure, and a cast of characters you'll never forget.

Reader Reviews

Melissa

An interesting look at RAD
This book is a must read for adoptive parents. It describes RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). I thought it was very interesting.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Practice Babies

All it took was the unexpected image of a cute, bare-bottomed baby to set the wheels of The Irresistible Henry House in motion. While Lisa Grunwald was researching another book, she happened upon an online exhibition detailing the history of Cornell University's home economics program which ran from 1900-1969. Originally established as a way to apply science in areas of home, farm, and family, Cornell's home ec. program implemented the use of live babies to mirror real-life domestic settings.

Incredible? Though it's too outrageous to imagine the use of a live baby as a teaching tool in today's educational settings, that's precisely what went on in the "practice apartments" of Cornell's home economics program back in 1919....

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Lisa Grunwald

If you liked The Irresistible Henry House, try these:

  • The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe jacket

    The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

    by Andrew O'Hagan

    Published 2011

    About this book

    More by this author

    In November 1960, Frank Sinatra gave Marilyn Monroe a dog. His name was Mafia Honey, or Maf for short. With style, brilliance, and panache, Andrew O’Hagan has drawn a one-of-a-kind portrait of the woman behind the icon, and the dog behind the woman.

  • The Tender Bar jacket

    The Tender Bar

    by J.R. Moehringer

    Published 2006

    About this book

    More by this author

    In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs - a classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it's also a moving portrait of one boy's struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...
  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.