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The Irresistible Henry House

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3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  4,966 ratings  ·  862 reviews
In this captivating novel, bestselling author Lisa Grunwald gives us the sweeping tale of an irresistible hero and the many women who love him. In the middle of the twentieth century, in a home economics program at a prominent university, orphaned babies are being used to teach mothering skills to young women. For Henry House, raised in these unlikely circumstances, findin ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published August 16th 2011 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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N W James
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,
...more
Almie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sandi
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 rotat ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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-
...more
Jackie
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 b ...more
Dianna
Apr 28, 2010 Dianna rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one, really.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa
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 m
...more
Hara
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Faith
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, the
...more
Sheryl
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
...more
Eileen Granfors
Impossible to put down. I wish my flight had been longer. . . I love this book but had to get off the plane and drive home from the airport.

Despite my jet lag, I finished this book a day after arriving home. I loved it for its originality and "teachable moments."

Lisa Grunwald's momentary fascination with a picture of a smiling paper became this fascinating novel, "The Irresistible Henry House." It seems that universities used real orphans as "practice babies" in Home Ec courses at universities d
...more
Ellene
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 ...more
Gwen
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
...more
Lori
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" un ...more
Lora King
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 an ...more
Hayes
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 ...more
Mindy
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 fel ...more
Nette
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
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.
Cora Judd
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
...more
Ricki Jill Treleaven
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 lat
...more
Sandie
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 Gr ...more
Kristin
Writing: 4
Story: 2
Satisfaction: 3ish

So 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 fi
...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
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 qu ...more
Laura
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 ta ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
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 actu
...more
M
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 strong ...more
Allison
Feb 26, 2013 Allison rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Forrest Gump type stories (i keed, i keed.)
Recommended to Allison by: A book review from PW I think.
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 ...more
Alethea Bothwell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel
I was excited to read this book because the premise is so original and it sounded like a very interesting story. However, I struggled to get through the book because the story never appeared to be going anywhere. The only point Grunwald seemed to want to make is that Henry was unable to truly bond with another person as a result of being raised as a practice baby and I don't think she needed 400+ pages to make that point.

One thing I found interesting is that it's hard to connect with Henry as a
...more
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192970
Lisa Grunwald is the author of the novels The Irresistible Henry House, Whatever Makes You Happy, New Year's Eve, The Theory of Everything, and Summer. Along with her husband, Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler, she edited the bestselling anthologies Women's Letters and Letters of the Century. Grunwald is a former contributing editor to Life and a former features editor of Esquire.

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More about Lisa Grunwald...
Whatever Makes You Happy: A Novel Women's Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present New Year's Eve The Theory Of Everything Summer

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“The language of sex seemed to echo with Shop: as a Playboy, apparently, you got hammered or plastered, then you nailed or screwed or drilled a woman who was built, or had a rack.” 4 likes
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