The Actor and the Housewife
Summary via publisher
Becky is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets her dream actor Felix Callahan by chance. Twelve hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later something has happened, though nothing has happened… it isn’t sexual. It isn’t even quite love. But soon Felix shows up in the Utah ‘burbs to visit and before they know what’s hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends. Really. Becky’s husband is pretty cool about it. Her children roll their eyes. Her best (girl)friend can’t get her head around it. But Felix (think Colin Firth) and Becky have something special… something unusual, something completely impossible to sustain. Or is it?
Where to start?
First, some background. I’ve been reading Shannon Hale since I was pretty young. Although I don’t have records of my reading that far back, my best guess is that I read my first Hale book when I was 14. I really love the Books of Bayern and I’m generally a fan of all her work. Since I’ve been on Twitter, following her campaigns for gender equality in reading, I’ve come to respect her even more.
Hale’s children’s books are pretty much universally respected. Her adult books draw much more mixed reviews. While Austenland garnered enough interest to support a film, The Actor and the Housewife is a completely different story.
When I first finished the book (1.5 years ago), I went hunting for reviews. They delivered just what I expected: a pendulum of delight and anger, but very little between.
- It’s too unlikely/It’s a fantasy/THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN
- It’s too Mormon, why was it marketed as mainstream fiction?
- Men and women cannot be friends, this borders on adultery
I don’t usually discuss other people’s complaints with a book. I have plenty of my own. But in this case, they provide a good foundation for talking about why I like the book.
Why I Like It
It’s Unlikely but Unapologetic
OF COURSE IT’S UNLIKELY! Of course it’s a fantasy. Becky knows that. But that does not mean it’s impossible. And that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a book.
I dislike unlikely situations as much as anyone else. I laugh at contrivances and complain about how styling makes plot unnatural. But here’s the thing. It could happen. In fact, Shannon Hale is a housewife from Utah whose book turned into a movie with famous actors. As far as I know, she didn’t become BFFs with Colin Firth or anyone else, but that’s only a tiny step beyond her actual life experience. So all the complaints about unlikeliness feel a bit over the top to me.
Granted, I’m partial to fantasy. I don’t like most contemporary fiction precisely because it is likely. I have no interest in being reminded of the petty pains of normal life. So now you know. It’s a little unlikely. Enjoy it anyway.
Mormon Main Character
I’m not Mormon, but I am conservatively religious. My demographic is seldom represented without mockery or exaggeration. I expect it’s the same for Mormons. Why in the world aren’t they portrayed in mainstream fiction? Saying that a book with a Mormon main character should be listed as LDS fiction is as outlandish as saying that any female MCs should be listed as women’s fiction or black MCs shouldn’t be mainstream. Fiction can be about anyone.
People with religious beliefs and experiences are a significant part of life. Can we stop relegating them to petty villains and joke characters? I enjoyed learning more about life as a Mormon.
Men and Women Can Be Friends
This final reason is what makes this book vital. Whether or not you believe men and women can be friends, The Actor and the Housewife at least opens the topic to serious discussion. As a young married woman, I desperately needed this chance to wrestle with the idea and seriously discuss it with my husband, family, and friends.
I don’t care which side of the debate you come down on. The idea is worthy of serious consideration. After reading this book, you’ll probably be a more compassionate friend to those on the other side.
The Actor and the Housewife is an important book. Step outside of your boring expectations for literature and enjoy an author who feels free enough to play. The result is a hilarious, thought-provoking, heart-breaking book about a woman struggling the way we all struggle.
[Review this book or any of Shannon’s (24!!) others on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads for your chance at the preorder of your choice. Tag your pictures with #Reviews3030 or email me at ytbellereads AT gmail.com.]