Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review -- The Actor and the Housewife

The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel by Shannon Hale

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I must first preface this “review” with the following disclaimers:

I’m not a fan of chick lit (is this book considered chick lit? – Mormon lit maybe?); I generally find it trite and friends get mad at me for taking it too seriously and not accepting it for “what it is!”

I’m not a reader of YA fiction; YA fiction has become significantly more mainstream lately, and many friends “cross-over” between YA fiction and adult fiction. With the exception of Harry Potter, I’m an adult fiction reader.

Because of the above, I’m not familiar at all with Shannon Hale’s YA novels. I know they are widely respected and liked. I know a lot of my friends have read The Princess Academy and her Bayern series and loved them. Because of their respect for her books, I decided to read both of Hale’s adult fiction books, Austenland, and her newest, The Actor and The Housewife. I planned on Austenland first, because I’m following an “Austen Challenge” on a book blog I follow, but, because The Actor and The Housewife is a new book, and only a 14 day check out – I had to fast track it to the front of my Hale reads.

Without holding back – The Actor and The Housewife was probably the most ridiculous book I’ve ever read. The premise: suburban, LDS, SAHM, sells screenplay to Hollywood – where by she meets top Hollywood, heart-throb, English actor (a Colin Firth/Hugh Grant/Kenneth Branagh/Ralph Fiennes kinda character) and they instantly become best friends. In the mean time, they both must maintain marriages, and she a family, while they carry on their best-friendness.

Now, Shannon Hale in her dedicatory page of Austenland, dedicates her book as such: “For Colin Firth: You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.” So, maybe this novel was an attempt to live out her fantasy of being best friends with Colin Firth. Or after she wrote it thought, “What a great premise for a novel – a normal, everyday Mom, being best friends with a hottie actor! Eureka!”

Somehow her quest to live out her fantasy or make this idea into a novel fails miserably. I never once believed that these two could possibly be friends. Or that men and women can maintain friendships without irreparably harming their marriages. Or that her husband, or ward, or kids, would tolerate such a relationship. Every scenario featuring both of these two characters is so far fetched it was laughable. Here is one: hottie Felix, having a lay-over in SLC goes to a screenplay workshop given by Becky. First off, what high paid actor flies commercial with lay overs? That would be ZERO! Here is another one: on another stay in suburban UT, Felix accompanies Becky to a ward pot luck. Seriously, ward pot lucks are painful enough to attend as members, can you imagine Brad Pitt going to one? And it was painful to read about too. I don’t think I will ever go to a ward pot luck again. There are other equally outlandish scenes, ones that I would find myself hollering at my husband to come listen to, “Honey, you got to listen to this!” He cringed most of the time and would say, “why are you reading this?”

Admittedly, the dialog between these two characters was witty and comical. If it had been a romantic comedy between two single adults, I think she could have managed a fun, likeable, entertaining book. And the last third of the book (for reasons I can’t explain, because it would spoil the ending – if you actually read it to the end) was FAR more successful than the beginning.

But all in all, The Actor and The Housewife was a stay-at-home, Mormon mommy, mess.

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