Read The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald Online


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 teacFilled 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....

Title : The Irresistible Henry House
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781400063000
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 412 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Irresistible Henry House Reviews

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-02-25 14:08

    Onvan : The Irresistible Henry House - Nevisande : Lisa Grunwald - ISBN : 1400063000 - ISBN13 : 9781400063000 - Dar 412 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2010

  • N W James
    2019-03-10 09:07

    I think most of the book group would agree that they liked the book well enough while they were actually reading it. "It was a good read" was an often spoken sentence. Stop reading now if you have plans to tackle this book and you don't want to start it with prejudices.The good news is the author knows how to propel the storyline and can turn a pretty phrase. However, there were some major issues with the plot. The bad news is once you're done reading this book and you reflect on the story arc, you might have some trouble paving over the holes.Loose ends were strewn everywhere in this story. Often characters would come upon a situation in which the narrator says something like "it would be years before this character would realize the implication of their actions". Realizations that would never come, in fact I can't think of one character who significantly changed during the telling of the story. A hint of change lies at the end that the title character has made some progress, but it is subtle and noncommittal (just like that character). Also, several plots lead no where that seem as if more time should have been spent explaining their random insertion into the storyline: the art room fire and its fallout, Henry's relationship with the photographer, the advance in the school shower room. And several plot points are so lazily or inexpertly written they made my eyes roll: Peace breaking Henry's heart in what has got to be the most expected and banal way (as opposed to Henry and Mary Jane's relationship), Henry's inability to draw without copying (we got it, it's a MAJOR THEME), and the whole Walt Disney plot (one group member mentioned that the story turned into Forrest Gump at this point).We talked quite a bit about how the young Henry House was written so precociously when he was little, that the reader could easily forget (or in my case not even realize) that by the time the story ends he's barely 20 years old. It forced the reader to expect more from that character very early on. Apparently an actual study was done that suggested children who do not form attachments within the first few months of life turn out to be horribly maladjusted adults. Because of this idea and how Henry was written early on some of us thought Henry would start killing people at any moment in the story. One of us also pointed out the worst written scene of teenage masturbation ever.The story of a practice baby has a lot of potential. Lisa Grunwald seemed to focus on the overall attachment issues people would have who were raised in a Home Ec practice house. She wrote on this subject very convincingly. I very much enjoyed the beginning of the book. But when it comes to unleashing Henry to the world, the story jumped several sharks that made one of our group have to go back to the first page to see if the story started with the phrase 'Once upon a time.'For a better told psychological story, try either Set This House In Order by Matt Ruff or Riven Rock by T.C. Boyle. For a better epic family tale, try either Bloodroot by Amy Greene or The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker.

  • AlmieMeg
    2019-03-15 10:21

    The descriptive writing is excellent. The characters, the settings and the detailed movement that brings a book to life drew me into the book. It is evident that a great deal of intricate work went into the creation of this book and the writing shows that. Disappointingly, there is no discernible plot to this book and there is no ending. If it was meant to be a character study and I somehow missed that fact, then….my bad. I apologize for this review. We follow the main character, Henry, through a series of life’s encounters from his infancy, through his rebellious teen years, and until he is a twenty-something young man. We’re thrown into his relationships, basically all with women, many of them sexual. He’s clearly a very lost person having been passed around his entire life, and never feeling that he belonged to anyone because he was a practice baby for young girls in college home economics program. He eventually finds a very successful career in a creative art field, but he feels inhibited by what he feels is a lack of genuine creativity. He moves all over the map from East Coast to West Coast to East Coast to Europe and back, while we are waiting for a plot to develop. He eventually appreciates his birth mother, who left him 3 times. But he never comes full circle and shows any love for the one stable and consistent person in his life; the woman who mothered him and loved him unconditionally and taught him to take care of himself. And in the end he turns to his best childhood friend seeking something more than friendship and the story simply stops. It stops with a confusing mixed message. We don’t know if he sheds a tear because it’s a relationship that will never develop, or if he’s drawing a picture of a house because he will settle down and marry this friend. With so much descriptive detail, this story just rambles. If only it had a well-developed plot, it would have been an excellent read. Instead it left me feeling rather cheated.

  • Sandi
    2019-03-03 16:30

    The Irresistible Henry House is an irresistible novel. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) I was as charmed by Henry's story every bit as much as the women in his life. About 3/4 of the way through listening to the story, I realized that it reminded me a lot of the movie Forrest Gump. Well, maybe not so much. Henry isn't an innocent and he doesn't love his mama. In fact, he doesn't really have a mama. Henry started out life as a practice baby in a practice house with six different practice mothers rotating mothering duties each week. As a result, he never really forms any strong attachments and never really has any strong male role models. Instead, he learns to be a social chameleon so everyone likes him and women love him. So, why was I reminded of Forrest Gump? This novel covers a quarter century of American (and English) life at a period of enormous change from the post-WWII era through the 1960's. Henry meets famous people like Walt Disney and the Beatles. Dr. Benjamin Spock makes an appearance too. Henry becomes an Everyman who allows us to experience what it must have been like to be young during such a pivotal period in American/British civilization. And, you can't help but root for Henry. He's despicable in many ways, but you know that's because he's lost. The audio production of this novel was very good. The narrator does and excellent job with the dialogue, especially Henry's. Whatever age Henry is, the narrator reads his dialogue appropriately. He doesn't do such a great job with the women's dialogue, but he's pitch-perfect with children's voices. It's very easy for children to be read badly, and the narrator here doesn't fall into the usual traps, like lisping and baby talk.I highly recommend this book if you want something that raises interesting ideas but doesn't get totally depressing.

  • Jeanette
    2019-03-26 12:19

    For me, this book's greatest appeal was the overview of American culture in the mid-20th century. If you were alive between 1946 and 1968, this will be a fun stroll down Memory Lane. If you're too young to have been there, this is your nice light primer on the era. Grunwald manages to toss in the most memorable trivia about social attitudes, clothing, decor, music, and current events of the period. Henry's life begins with the post-war optimism of the late 1940s and progresses through the golly-gee-whiz wholesomeness of the 1950s followed by the boldly defiant, garishly colored, drug-laced 1960s. His restlessness as a young adult is the perfect vehicle for exploring New York City, California, and London in the psychedelic '60s. The scene where Henry loses his virginity is brilliant. It's not graphic or even particularly sexual, which is what makes it funny. His desperation and eagerness for the experience makes that all-important first time awkward, unsatisfying, and comical. And it's a great way for the author to include a reference to Joe Palooka, hee hee.I had a hard time dredging up much sympathy for Henry. Yes, his upbringing in the "practice house" (WHAT! WERE! THEY! THINKING!?) was unconventional and lacking in some ways. But he was never abused, neglected, or molested. I couldn't actively dislike him, but he just seemed so much like other guys I've met (and dated) who want every woman they hook up with to compensate for their wounded childhoods. Get over yourself, boy.My favorite character is fairly minor, but I was always happy to see her pop back into the story. Solid, reliable, straightforward, no-nonsense Ethel. She's always there in a practical way when Henry needs her, but she never pities or babies him. I like Grunwald's writing. It has the smoothness of an experienced author, and never gets too heavy or melodramatic.

  • Dianna
    2019-03-17 16:23

    This review is probably only appropriate for folks who have already read or probably won't read the book. Since I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone, I'm not going to be shy about the spoilers.Henry House was a practice baby in a 1940s-50s College Home Economics Program. His mother (who'd given him to an orphanage at birth) was the daughter of the President of the University, and as such got herself inserted into that class as well as the baby. She begs the Home Ec professor (who desperately clings to Henry) to keep the baby, since she cannot. She goes to join her AWOL (from WWII) husband in Australia to become a drunk. So Henry is raised by dozens of different mothers... the closest thing to a real one he had (the professor) was just using him to fill a void in her own life. She's constantly staring into his eyes searching for the love she so desperately needs. When he asks about his real mother, she so desperately wishes it were her that she invents a lie... a lie that, when revealed by his own drunk mother's return, turns Henry against her for life. He remains with her, feigns muteness, and gets sent away to a boarding school for special needs kids.And so the majority of the book is Henry's childhood spent learning what love might be like, having come from this unique situation. There are some really fun settings, as a teenaged Henry becomes an animator for Disney during Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book, as well as later for the Yellow Submarine. It's got a good sense of period, which was fun to read.I think the book would be infinitely more interesting if it spent only a couple of chapters on his origin, and instead focused on the adult life of a man who was raised that way. When the book ends, I think Henry's only about 20-22 or so, and the majority of the book examined his sexual maturation -- which could be decidedly odd as he never had a single adult male role model.It's not set up for a sequel at all, but if there is one, then I bet I would like it quite a bit.

  • Faith
    2019-03-19 12:32

    Show! Don't Tell!!I wanted so badly to love this book, but it was not meant to be. The biggest problem I had was that I'd put it down and not care if I picked it up again. At first, I attributed this to the fact that I'd started it just before Christmas. By mid-January, however, I realized it was the book. After thinking about why that was so, I realized this book is 99% telling and 1% showing. Grunwald broke the cardinal rule for writers -- Show, don't tell!!Clearly, based on other reviews, there are people who don't mind a telling book. If it were shorter, I might not have minded it, myself. Grunwald writes well and I enjoyed her descriptive scenes, particularly in California and London. What the telling does for me, however, is make me not care about any of the characters. The main characters are particularly annoying. By the end of the book, the only character I liked was Mary Jane. It had no intimacy for me. I didn't get to 'know' these characters, and learn about them that way. It was Lisa Grunwald telling me about these characters she knew. She was always telling me how they felt and what they thought. I never got the chance to learn these things myself. They became, for the most part, characters I didn't want to hear about.Beyond my not getting to know the characters, I also got the feeling they were too 'scripted.' I don't get the feeling that Henry or Martha or Betty told Grunwald how (s)he felt about anything. Grunwald had a story to tell and made her characters fit the story. The fact that Peace was so much like Henry, even though she had been adopted, reinforced this 'make the character fit the story' sense. The biggest flaw I saw here was Henry's attitude to Martha. It didn't make sense to me at all. She was the one constant he'd had. Yes, he would be angry at her for lying to him. Yes, he'd want to run away with Betty. Yes, he'd likely want to leave home ASAP (or else become a 'mama's boy'). But, I think part of all of that, once he got over the initial anger at Martha for lying, would be, not because he had no feeling for her, but because he did have feelings and needed to get away from her smothering.As I write this, I think maybe, possibly, Grunwald expected the reader to realize he actually did have feelings for Martha. I still believe that the telling manner of writing makes this much more difficult for the reader to see. If one gets to see Henry's emotions, rather than be told about them, one can then determine that he thinks he feels nothing for Martha, but actually really does. Kudos to Grunwald for the ending. I tend to doubt that Henry would have made the realization about Mary Jane as young as he did, but her reaction was absolutely right. It is this ending, Henry's realization, that makes me wonder if everything we are told about how he feels about things is accurate, though it's all too vague. I sort of suspected that was how it would end for Henry and was really concerned that it would be a sappy ending. I was delighted it wasn't. It is this ending (along with the Disney and London settings, so well described) that made the book worth reading, for me.If you like a literary style (I do) and don't mind telling (I do), go ahead and read this book. If you prefer action stories or at least a feeling of actually getting to know the characters, you probably won't care for this book.

  • Melissa
    2019-03-05 14:29

    This is a strange one, a book that is chocked full of interesting plot points, but that lacks any likable characters. Henry House is a practice baby provided by a local orphanage for a small Pennsylvania women’s college in the 1940s. This is something that really happened from 1919 to 1969; orphans were used in home economic courses to help teach young women how to care for babies. Martha runs the practice house where Henry lives and eventually becomes his mother. We also find out who his real mother is and we see Henry live a Goldilocks-style life, with one mother too old to understand him and the other too young to care for him properly. Henry spends his whole life watching anyone he loves eventually leave him. Because of this he’s unable to form any real connections with people. At one point Martha compares Henry’s upbringing to that of the rhesus monkeys that were experimented on. They were given wire “mothers” that dispensed milk and cloth “mothers.” The monkeys preferred the cloth surrogate mothers, but in the end they all went mad because they had no real mother, no real caregiver. It’s a dark and disturbing thought coming from the woman who is supposed to be his “mother.”We follow Henry throughout his childhood and early adulthood, watching the world change around him in dramatic ways. The book is almost reminiscent of Forrest Gump in the fact that we see dozens of major events and famous people cross paths with Henry in one way or another. There’s a mini history lesson on each page and that was by far my favorite aspect of the novel. BOTTOM LINE: Worth reading if you’re curious about the history of using practice babies or about Disney animators. The writing style reminds me a lot of John Irving – even when you don't like the characters the story is still quirky and compulsively readable, but it leaves me feeling dissatisfied. I think I would have preferred a nonfiction book on the subject to this. “If he had no one, he figured, he would have no one to lose.”

  • Jackie
    2019-03-01 08:13

    I am utterly captivated with this book because its premise is SO fascinating, especially since it's based in historical fact. Apparently, from the 1920s to the 1960s, there were collegiate level home economics classes that involved rotations in a 'practice house' taking care of a real live 'practice baby'. Orphanages literally "loaned" babies to these college programs for roughly two years per baby, and several women worked weekly rotations being in charge. The whole program was actually quite brilliant, since it was a quiet way of teaching women high level physics, mathematics, mechanics, economics etc. under the guise of letting them earn their MRS degrees (example: one project was to dismantle and then reassemble a refrigerator). Grunwald takes us into that world, with a stern proctor named Martha, an unusually charming orphan named Henry and his 6 practice mothers. The book follows Henry from 3 months old to roughly 25 years old and shows what might have happened to a boy raised in such a way. Grunwald carefully weaves in actual psychological studies done on real "practice babies" as well as extremely clever character development of her own, generously spiced with the cultural details of the changes that happened throughout the 1950s and 60s to create a truly absorbing story. You've never read a book like this one. I guarantee it.

  • Garlan ✌
    2019-03-04 12:15

    We all have that one friend, or know someone, who's that glib, smooth talking, somewhat careless person that everyone seems to like or hate equally. Henry is that fellow. Born an orphan and raised in a "practice house" for young ladies studying home economics, Henry has affection lavished on him from an early age.He doesn't seem to develop many lasting attachments to anyone but Mary Jane, the only female in this story that Henry doesn't have a fling with. We follow him from childhood, to young adolescence, and finally into early manhood. He grows up in the cultural revolution of the 60's and a lot of that is captured in this book. He has a lot of relationships, but none seem to affect him too deeply. As I read this story, I was reminded of a quote that Gus McRae applies to Jake Spoon in "Lonesome Dove" - something along the lines of "he was far too leaky a vessel to hold much water". And that's the feeling I got regarding Henry. I like him, but I wouldn't put a great deal of trust in him.In a way, I treated this really good, well written book a bit like Henry treated his relationships. I liked it, I appreciated the craftsmanship and the story, but I kept putting it aside for other books that came along. I'm glad I returned and finished this book. It really is a very good read.

  • Hara
    2019-03-01 08:21

    Really wanted to like this book; it sounded so compelling. But I really hated the main character. It *can* be ok to hate a main character if the author makes a good explanation for his abhorrent personality. But I feel like the author completely failed at this. Henry was just a jerk. No childhood trauma. C'mon, connect the dots for me as to WHY being raised in that manner would cause him to be such an indifferent, un-trusting, arrogant person. Crying, at age one, because of a switch in caregiver. Eh! Parents leave babies that age with babysitters and sneak out the door all the time. It was interesting that at two points in the book, women questioned his pathology...I believe Karen asked him why it was so bad to have been raised by a houseful of practice mothers, and Annie (maybe) asked him why it was so bad for him to act like Martha's son, and I don't think he answered either one, or even thought about either question introspectively. And what exactly, is so bad about Martha? Even the questions at the end of the book say "is anything redeeming about Martha?" Seriously?! How many parents (adoptive or biological) have a baby because they want to feel needed, or because they're dealing with a loss, (probably the majority) and what is wrong with that? It's the amount of love they offer, not why they had a kid, that is important. How can Henry deny her love and not forgive her lie and even expect HER to apologize on her deathbed? Ugh. And don't get me started on the misogyny of this book, as well as the implicit underlying notion that the only good family setup is a traditional mother-father one. And one more is never explained WHY Henry is so damned irresistible. Because he's good-looking and indifferent? Again, ugh. This goes along with the misogyny--the awful stereotype that all (or most) women are attracted to jerks, or men who act badly but they believe they can change. And one more thing. (Can't stop writing because I keep remembering other annoying things about this book!) It rings completely falsely to me that Peace turns out to be just like Henry when, really, her upbringing was completely different. Oh, no, she's behaving in London just like Henry did in California. To go back to the misogyny theme, she is punished for sleeping with 3 people at the same time while Henry suffers no repercussions. Punished by Henry, who is unconvincingly in love for real this time--again, no connection of the dots by the author...the relationship is not described any differently than his other relationships. This book had so much potential because the subject is so interesting but the author fails, instead choosing to fawn over the main character, apparently because he is the main character, in a manner much like (almost) every female character in the book.

  • Gwen
    2019-03-10 08:12

    The subject of this book --following a boy whose first two years were as the "house" baby in a home economics practice house -- piqued my interest. Since it dovetails with current research interest and time period, and friends who have heard of the book asked if I'd read it (yet), I got it and finally read it. As promised, the novel follows the life of Henry House, so-named by the faculty supervisor of the practice house (all of "her" children bore H-first name House as their monikers for their first two years). We follow Henry through his first three decades. Kept but not adopted by the house mother, Henry learns at an early age good manners, how to run a house properly, how to talk (listen!) to women, and that loving someone rarely means they'll be in one's life permanently. As he matures, he meets his real mother; holds out hope that she will, as she promises, come back for him; learns how to observe and manipulate; hones his skills as a copiest or mimic of artistic style; and eventually figures out what a real relationship could (or should?) mean. The details about home economics as an academic discipline, and changes in child care (exit John Watson, enter Benjamin Spock), are spot on. I think that the author wants to hang Henry's hat --his ambivalence towards women, distrust about relationships-- on his mothering (by many women, not forming a permanent attachment with any of them). But for a boy who comes of age as an adult in the 1960s with drugs, alcohol, sex, music and the art scene, it begs the question: is it all really the mother's fault? How much of this can be attributed to larger social forces? More than that, for a boy raised under Watson's directives rather than Spock's, as surely many of his contemporaries were, is that really fair? Much to ponder ...

  • Lori
    2019-03-11 14:24

    The premise of this book intrigued me - a college Home Economics class raising a "practice baby"?! Then, I discovered that this actually happened from 1917 to the early 60's in universities all over the country! This is a fictional account of one of those babies. From the very beginning when we meet the house mother in the mid 1940's who has been running the local university's "Practice House" for years and then as we watch the entire process of obtaining, naming and raising a "practice baby" unfold we get an inside look back at the time and prevailing thoughts of the mid-twentieth century, especially as they relate to child rearing. There is such a nostalgic feel to the beginning of this book and the story was well told in such an engaging way that I had a hard time putting it down. I have studied family systems for years and there was quite a bit of conjecture about what happens to children who have different family systems. Some of the conclusions I found rather implausible while I found some fascinating and psychologically sound. All of the questions you have about what might happen emotionally to a child who is passed off from "mother" to "mother" for the first few years of their life is examined here. I am not a big fan of the pop culture of the 1960's so as the story moved into that time period, I did not enjoy it as much but if you're going to follow someone born in the 1940's into adulthood, the 60's are going to come in to play, like it or not.Overall, highly recommended.

  • Sheryl
    2019-03-17 16:12

    Henry House is a "practice baby" in a home economics class in the 1940s. I had never heard about practice babies before. The schools would take orphan babies, and let students practice taking care of them. Then they would be adopted out when they were toddlers. The instructor for this class, Martha Gaines, is especially drawn to baby Henry, and asks to raise him as her own child.Henry has such appeal to women, everyone wants to be his favorite, and he does not want to be tied to one woman. As he grows up, he breaks hearts right and left, and leaves Martha for his birth mother, and then for a life with Disney as a cartoonist. His skill takes him to London to work on the Beatles movie "Yellow Submarine," where he lives with another practice baby who is even more detached than he is.His conversations with Walt Disney and the Beatles reminded me of Forrest Gump, being in the right place at the right time. The book is a fascinating look at a little known cultural phenomenon, and an examination of the possible long-term effects it could have had on the lives of the children involved.

  • Ellene
    2019-03-18 16:04

    I had a hard time liking Henry for about 85% of this book because he seemed like he was so self-absorbed and refusing to take responsibility for himself--such a drama-mama. His reaction to his adoptive mother Martha as well as birth mother Betty is understandable but extreme. But then again, his reactions to the only person who ever accepted him as is, Mary Jane, was also quite extreme at times. It was MJ who really kept me going throughout this book. Because if she could accept him for what he is--a baby-cum-man who was shaped by too many mothers and none simultaneously--then shouldn't I? I'm glad that I did stick with it because he eventually does get to the place that I hoped for him--and accepts what has happened to him enough to move forward in a healthy way.Grunwald's writing is a bit stiff in some places but captures the times well--from the stodgy 1950s to the free-wheeling 1960s. She captures the essence of Henry without apologies and lays him bare in a way that is both compelling and disquieting. She also brings to attention the idea of practice babies in Home Economics programs back then. (I certainly had no clue that this was done, although am not surprised.)

  • Lora King
    2019-03-16 08:19

    I found Henry House totally resistible. I didn't like Henry. I did like the women in the story, but he irritated me. The book itself is good, I liked the way it spans the years and how Henry worked at Disney in the early 60's and then worked on the animation of Yellow Submarine. But what's the deal with the school for the mental defects where everyone is treated like it's a prep school? I don't think that was realistic (I'll have to research that to see if I'm wrong). I read this for bookclub and it was a good read, but I just didn't like the main character. I didn't like the way he treated Martha and I felt her pain more than his. Mary Jane was adorable. Peace was as dispicable as Henry. I'm sure my bookclub members will disagree with me which is fine as we all take away from books what we like and don't like.

  • Mindy
    2019-03-17 16:21

    Well, I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it. Who wants to read about an egocentric jerk who punishes the women who love him because he feels cheated by the woman who raised him? And he is then, of course, treated to a taste of his own medicine and doesn't like it. Apparently, a lot of people want to read about this and liked it. I, however, found the book to be kind of boring. While the idea behind the plot was intriguing, the character of Henry was so shallow that the rest of the book just fell flat. I thought the historical context was forced despite the fascinating events that Henry's life spanned. Disappointing overall.

  • Hayes
    2019-03-06 13:33

    3.5 stars: I am not a big fan of The Novel. It was okay, just not my genre. It got off to an overwritten, slow start and I was thinking about not finishing it. But my best chum from elementary school is the author--how could I give up? And I'm glad I continued because it got better. It's a strange but moving story, and at the end, where Henry winds up in London among the hip and the mod, I was reminded of another friend's older sister, who found herself in London with the hip and the mod and in very similar circumstances (and at about the same time, late 1960s). On NPR, Jan 6 2011:

  • Nette
    2019-03-14 08:32

    I. Loved. This. Book. (Do I sound emphatic enough?) It follows the life of a home ec "practice" baby (they really had them!) as he grows up through the 50s and 60s. It's a bit like Garp without the bears and wrestling, or Zelig without quite so many historical figures, or Gump without the sap. Please. Read.

  • John Davis
    2019-03-14 09:19

    I was first drawn to the premise but became so absorbed by the excellence of the writing that I sped through the book in spite of some unlikable characters. I came away feeling as if I knew Henry.

  • Ricki Treleaven
    2019-03-02 14:27

    This week I read The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald. It has been in my TBR (to be read) pile forever, and I finally got around to reading it. Lisa Grunwald's story was inspired by a photograph of a practice baby from Cornell University's practice house where they used real babies from the 1920's to the 1960's to teach mothering skills to students. These babies were supplied by a local orphanage. In Grunwald's book, fictitious Wilton College is the setting, and Martha Gaines is the late forty-ish matron of the practice house program. She names each baby every year with an "H" name, and gives all of them the last name House. When Martha brings Henry House home to Wilton's practice house, he is only fourteen weeks old. Martha prefers her babies to be five or six months old when they begin the program. As Martha introduces Henry to his new temporary home, she whispers to Henry, "I think I am going to love you. Don't tell a soul."Henry House does seem to be irresistible to all women with his dark hair and autumn-colored green with orange-flecked eyes. All of his practice mothers are smitten, and as he grows up, he finds it almost impossible to make choices or commit to girls/women because he can never fulfill what each one desires. One criticism I have about the book is Henry's angst and animosity directed toward his adoptive mother. I am probably much more sympathetic to her than I should be. He never seems to mature, and he has trust issues that should not have stemmed from his experiences in the practice house. I tend to disagree overall with Grumwald's premise.I do love this book. I can't help but be completely fascinated by the practice house concept and a matron who rules it with an iron fist. Martha's schedule is contradictory to everything in Dr. Spock's book with its first line, "You know more than you think." I also appreciate Grunwald's use of leitmotif. Many of Henry House's milestones are punctuated by Walt Disney. Look for this technique early in the book. I also adore the depiction of the 1960's culture in The Irresistible Henry House. The book reminds me of Forest Gump in that respect. Although I personally cannot stand the spoiled generation of the Age of Aquarius, Grunwald's prose is well researched, and it is little wonder that she is also a journalist. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that she is also an accomplished anthropologist.I hope Lisa Grunwald writes more fiction in the near future. The Irresistible Henry House and its inspiration is, well, irresistible!

  • Sandie
    2019-02-26 14:34

    As an academic experiment, practice babies did exist in the U.S. from 1919 to 1969. Lisa Grunwald has taken this bit of historical fact and given us the fictional Henry House, an orphan initially raised as “a practice baby” by six Home Ec “mothers” at an Eastern college campus. Through a series of unusual circumstances he is adopted by the house mother, Martha Gaines, rather than being returned to the orphanage and potential adoption by a couple. Other reviewers have compared Henry to Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump. All I can say is the only similarity between those two books is that they both cover a historically significant period of time and insert their respective protagonists into the those events.While Forrest was a loving child who blossoms under his mothers nurturing hand, Henry is rebellious and resents Martha, for the innumerable crimes he discerns she has committed against him, not the least of which is loving him. Their communication is lacking……and Henry’s perception of Martha’s love is that “it makes demands” and he does everything in his power to escape any demands on his life. The people he meets during his first twenty or so years are only important as long as they can fill some immediate need in his life. It makes one wonder how so many of those whose paths he crossed, particularly women, could not see through his exploitation of them. Henry is a classic example of what happened to a lot of the “children of the sixties”, whether they were adopted or not. He is the poster child for self-absorption, conceit, manipulation of others, and thinly disguised cruelty. Even in his work he finds it difficult to give anything of himself, finding a satisfaction of sorts in duplicating the work of others rather than artistically displaying something that might reveal his inner thoughts and feelings. The book spans three decades and moves from Pennsylvania to New York to London and Paris and back again, bringing Henry in contact with everyone from Walt Disney to The Beatles. While author Lisa Grunwald has produced a satisfying and diverting story with a protagonist who comes across as an unforgiving man with a “me first” attitude, I am happy to report that KARMA finally rears it’s ugly head and Henry gets the wake up call we had all been hoping for. Let’s give a big cheer for KARMA!

  • Allison
    2019-03-14 12:12

    The subject matter of this book is what originally made me want to read it. Martha Gaines is in charge of the Home Economics department at a small liberal arts college in the 1950s. She runs the "practice house" that helps young women learn domestic duties including caring for a real life baby. Apparently this is something that actually happened in history; a baby would be "donated" by an orphanage, cared for by a veritable army of mothers who used him/her for "practice" and then get adopted out as babies that were ideal for adoption. If that sounds like a nightmare for child psychological development, that is because it is. And we see Martha as she trains these young women, with her own (lightly mentioned) tragic backstory providing no reason for her to seek out her own home life. Then she meets the baby Henry. She is instantly drawn to him and feels a stronger attachment to him for some unnamed reason than she ever has to any previous babies. It turns out that the baby Henry is actually the son of one of the practice mothers and that fact coupled with Martha's increasingly needy dependence on the child makes for a complicated start to young Henry's life. The book then follows Henry through his childhood, adolescence and exploits in love and life as a young man, which takes him from a small New England boarding school, to New York City, to Walt Disney movie studios, to England and back again to New York.I would have given this more stars if it didn't feel like it started out being about one thing and ended up being about something else. The writing and research were good but I just felt the story wanted to pack too much into one book. I was enjoying reading it from Martha, the house mother's point of view and then she became an annoying side character to Henry, a rather unlikable and unrelatable character. It started to feel a tad bit Forrest Gump-like with the introduction of John Lennon and Walt Disney into Henry's purview which I felt stretched things a bit much. I did like the original idea for the story and I was a fan of one of the many female characters, Ethel. I actually thought she, Mary Jane and Peace were more interesting than Henry and I kind of wish that Ethel had her own novel!

  • Kristin
    2019-03-18 11:33

    Writing: 4Story: 2Satisfaction: 3ishSo I didn't dislike this book. I thought the characters were well written but just so unlikable that I didn't care about them at all and was bored reading about their day to day actions. The book begins in the perspective of Martha, the lonely widow who teaches college girls in home economics. One part of their course is on raising a child and for this, they "borrow" a baby from a local orphanage and each student spends time as the mother. This part isn't a fictional creation and colleges in the past used to use orphaned babies in this manner. The idea was that the baby would be raised in the best styles and then would be more adoptable after since parents would be eager to have a baby that was already "trained."Henry House is one of these babies and Martha, though Henry is far from the first baby she's brought up in this manner, falls in love with him and adopts him after his term as the house baby is over. Unfortunately for her, this method of child rearing has some pretty negative long-term effects and Henry, even as a child, is unable to form solid emotional attachments with anyone. No one is "special" to him and he treats everyone the same way, with a casual indifference. As he grows older, this indifference leads to him leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him. Not only those of the girls he plays with but also of his pseudo families along the way. After his childhood, most of the book is from the perspective of Henry. If you don't want to slap the sucker by half way through, you have more will power than I do. This is one of those stories where the character is unlikable from the reader's perspective but somehow everything works out magically for them all throughout the story. I hate that. I wanted him to suffer.I also didn't find the ending very satisfying. Well written since I believe the character is meant to be unsympathetic but at the same time, it's hard to be interested in a character you care so little about. After the half way point, I had to force through since I just didn't care. It picked up a bit in the last 40 or so pages but I still feel really meh about the entire thing.

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    2019-03-11 10:22

    Confession: I was a bit resistant to this book when I started it. I have little patience for damaged men and I wasn't sure I'd be interested in or care about Henry's emotional wounds.  An orphan baby lent out to a college's home economics program, Henry was raised by a series of practice mothers before being adopted by the head of the program, but as a result, he's irrevocably scarred.  As he grows up, he struggles to form and understand healthy relationships, opting instead for the pleasure of quick flings -- and succumbing to lure of the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll '60s.Once I started this book, though, I couldn't stop.  Even though Henry was damaged goods, and I found him and his behavior so maddening, the story wasn't really about his behaving badly.  It was about his searching for and fleeing from unconditional love, an exploration of the real world impact of a child denied emotional attachment as an infant.As a historical novel, this book was engrossing, especially the juxtaposition of the squeaky clean world of late '50s Disney with the gritty, grimy, hazy landscape of London in the '60s.  There were a few Forrest Gump-ish moments I could have lived without, but they were rare and I could speed past them easily.  Grunwald's writing is effortless and I adored her secondary and tertiary characters.  I found them as vibrant and real as Henry; in particular, his best friend Mary Jane might be one of my favorite of this year.  (I'd love a book all about her!) The last chapter of this book changed my review from 'okay' to 'like' -- it's bittersweet and hopeful and moving, and I raced to the end, satisfied with the conclusion.  I think this would be another great book club read, or an unusual historical novel for anyone wanting a change of pace, or fans of Mary Poppins or Yellow Submarine (two projects Henry works on, and Grunwald's obvious research is fascinating).

  • Jessica
    2019-02-24 14:31

    From my posts so far, it seems like I have nothing else to do but read fiction. Would that it were so. But this is an anomaly - we were on vacation for the holiday and I squeezed in several books just for fun. But I plan to review books I'm reading for work, too, so the next batch will certainly be about Afghanistan, Iraq, 9/11, or the Cold War. The Cold War, in fact, leads me to my next book...The Irresistible Henry House is about a baby who was taken from an orphanage in 1951 to be a "practice baby" in a home economics program at a small college in the midwest. It sounded a bit weird, but also exactly like something that would happen in the 1950s; at the end of the book, the author shares the photo of a real practice baby that inspired her to write her novel! Love it. Anyway, the book explores how Henry's unorthodox upbringing affected his development and relationships. Grunwald really nailed it, from the home he inhabits and the woman who runs the program to the trajectory of Henry's life. It's also a nifty jaunt through history - Grunwald deftly moves Henry (and her readers) through the cultural landscape of the 1950s and 60s in America and London without seeming gimmicky or nostalgic in the least. This book mostly has really well-drawn, "round" characters, which I always appreciate, but it also has good narrative momentum; it's not a cliffhanger or anything, but I found it difficult to put down all the same. At times, the story felt a little flat and the characters were a bit frustrating, but these were deliberate - very much in keeping with the story that Grunwald draws for us.All in all, Henry House and the rest of the characters peopling this book are pretty irresistible. I loved it.

  • M
    2019-03-19 12:22

    This is a tightly written and highly original tale of Henry "House" Gaines, a young man who true to his name seems - at times unlikely so - irresistible to many women he meets. His story begins in the rather dubious home ec course at Wilton College, where Martha Gaines adopts an unwanted child each year for young women to 'practice' on and learn how to be a mother. Within this already fascinating world, the reader also encounters first hand the very parenting theories that have since been strongly refuted - leaving a child to cry, disciplining him from a few months to nap on schedule, and dismissing cuddling as 'smothering.' What becomes of a child whose formative years involve seven rotating 'moms,' none of whom are the mother, and a beginning that is documented steadily in a notebook and read thoroughly?Henry ends up staying on as he does in fact prove irresistible to uptight, rigid Martha, and the reader sees the unfolding complications in Henry's life as someone who feels both smothered by Martha and neglected by his birth mother, who longs for affection but finds it equally threatening.For most of this novel I found it to be excellent. However, as Henry grew it took a turn that I didn't like as much - Henry as an adult is a bit of a sleaze bag; self absorbed and a big ingrate, and yet women continue to want him. In many ways he was hard to sympathize with or even understand. The other characters though, for the most part, were interesting and well sketched; the dialog was strong and the ideas rich and enthralling.

  • Laura
    2019-03-06 12:11

    I feel like this book was made more interesting to me simply because I read it on the heels of finishing Room. While Room is focused on the bond between mother & child, and how that bond & love helps both to handle a horrifying situation, this book is almost the opposite. By contrast, instead of forming a bond, Henry, an orphan, is raised by several practice mothers in the practice house of a women's college home-ec program. This constant handing-off, along with the style of parenting taught in the program, prevents Henry from developing a strong bond with any one mother. Of course this leads to issues as he grows up and the remainder of the book covers the course of Henry's life up through early adulthood. (view spoiler)[ To a point, the further I read in this book, the more disturbed and nervous I became. During his high school days, and the time in New York & California, I kept expecting Henry to start killing people. Fortunately that did not happen, but I would not have been surprised if it did. I enjoyed seeing him look in a mirror through living with Peace while in London & I am glad the book ended with the possibility that he was thinking about changing his life. It would have been too neat, tidy & unbelievable if the author had wrapped it all up with a happily ever after. (hide spoiler)]

  • Tattered Cover Book Store
    2019-03-14 08:25

    Jackie says:I am utterly captivated with this book because its premise is SO fascinating, especially since it's based in historical fact. Apparently, from the 1920s to the 1960s, there were collegiate level home economics classes that involved rotations in a 'practice house' taking care of a real live 'practice baby'. Orphanages literally "loaned" babies to these college programs for roughly two years per baby, and several women worked weekly rotations being in charge. The whole program was actually quite brilliant, since it was a quiet way of teaching women high level physics, mathematics, mechanics, economics etc. under the guise of letting them earn their MRS degrees (example: one project was to dismantle and then reassemble a refrigerator). Grunwald takes us into that world, with a stern proctor named Martha, an unusually charming orphan named Henry and his 6 practice mothers. The book follows Henry from 3 months old to roughly 25 years old and shows what might have happened to a boy raised in such a way. Grunwald carefully weaves in actual psychological studies done on real "practice babies" as well as extremely clever character development of her own, generously spiced with the cultural details of the changes that happened throughout the 1950s and 60s to create a truly absorbing story. You've never read a book like this one. I guarantee it.

  • Cora Judd
    2019-03-11 14:22

    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.