December 10, 2009

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

8 of 10: The Actor and the Housewife was not at all what I was expecting, but I loved every page of it. I had absolutely no idea where it was going to go and that is a fun way to read a book. 

You may remember that Shannon Hale wrote her first adult novel, Austenland, a couple of years ago. I read about 20 pages, put it down, and never picked it up again. So I can't compare this one to it in any way.

The basic premise of the story is that Becky, average Mormon stay-at-home mother of three and hugely pregnant with #4, sells a screenplay. She finds herself in LA, meeting about a contract. While in the meeting, who should march in, but Felix Callahan, one of the biggest movie star heart throbs alive, and a personal favorite of Becky's.

It turns out they are staying in the same hotel and he gives her a ride back in his limo. Later, when she's going to eat dinner in the restaurant in the hotel, the waiter will only seat her at the (smoking) bar since she's alone and it's hotel policy. Felix is there and takes pity on her, asking the waiter to seat them together. During dinner, he looks over her contract and makes some fairly major suggestions about things to change.

And then she goes back to Utah, to her beloved husband and rowdy children and assumes she'll never see him again.

Except that a few months later, he calls her and says that he and his French supermodel wife are going to be in Utah to ski and could they all four get together?

And, against all odds, they become friends. And not just friends, but CLOSE friends. There doesn't seem to be any romantic feelings on either side, but it's enough to make Becky's family a little suspicious (her husband thinks the whole thing is pretty odd, but doesn't have a real problem with it).

This book doesn't fit easily into a genre - it's hilarious and sad, it's romantic and realistic and unrealistic and so many other things at the same time. I can't think of any box this neatly fits into.

If you've read any Emily Griffin books, this book had the same "I have no idea where this story is going, but I trust the author to make it work" feeling her books have (except, you know, a lot cleaner). 

It's fairly long book - it took me a three hour plane flight and several more hours in the hotel in Florida to finish it - and it spans some 12 years or more. The pacing, though, never felt slow, and I enjoyed it all.

I wondered how it would work with the main character being Mormon and it being a pretty major part of her life (and the story). I need someone who isn't Mormon to read this and tell me what they think, since I'm, of course, familiar with all the things that were mentioned in connection to her religion in the story.

This book just completely hooked me - I loved all the characters, I loved watching the plot unfold, and I had no idea, up the last page, how things were going to end up. Delightful.

I am wildly impressed with Shannon Hale's ability to write in such diverse genres. She is a master.


  1. Ugh, I felt the same way about Austenland...only I sloshed my way to the finish! Be glad you didn't waste those couple of hours!!!!

    I have also read The Actor and the Housewife and found it to be so totally different that Austenland that I enjoyed it for that reason alone! Maybe I shouldn't read the same author in the same day...hmmmm...

  2. It sounds really interesting.

  3. Austenland was possibly the absolute worst book I have ever read. Be so glad you didn't waste your time finishing it.

  4. Amen to everything about Actor and the Housewife! Loved it! I alternated between laughing out loud and crying.

  5. I liked this book too. There were some things that annoyed me, but on the whole I enjoyed it. I did not like Austenland - wish I hadn't read the whole thing.

  6. Thank you! I've been looking for a good book to take my mind of off finals. I will be picking this up at the bookstore tonight, at least if it doesn't snow anymore!

  7. Hello dear Janssen! I tolerated Austenland in fact, I think I loaned it to someone and told them to not worry about returning it...and I'm a re-reader so that should tell you how I really felt.)

    I have "The Actor and the Housewife" on my Christmas list (if ONLY she'd put her books on Kindle, I would have read it long ago!) I can't wait to read it and your review confirmed that I will love it. I laughed hard at the Emily Giffin comment (I know that was for me and I feel ever so special now - lol.)

  8. Shannon Hale lost me as a reader of her adult novels about five pages into Austenland. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her YA titles, but Austenland just was so...forced somehow. I kept thinking "Really? Can anyone really be this hooked on the whole Austen thing?" I finally flung it away in distaste and then returned it to the library ON TIME.

    Anyway. YAY for all the other commenters who also didn't like Austenland. Glad it isn't just me! and thanks for your review. It made me think...maybe, MAYBE I will work on admitting Hale back into the Inner Echelon of my reading list. ;)

  9. I actually liked Austenland but am leery of this one. It seems more unrealistic than Austenland to me! But, because I love you, I think I'll add it to my list.

  10. I LOVED Austenland. I'm so surprised all of you guys didn't like it. I just got my requested copy of The Actor... the other day and am excited to read it (but still sad that you guys didn't enjoy Austenland).

  11. I totally want to read this now. Looked it up at our local library and found six copies, all checked out, and 76 requests for it. Humpf.

  12. Janssen, I don't know what to do! - I was going to read this over Christmas break, but I'm still 41st on the waiting list at the library - any other suggestions for a fun, light, hooray-I-finally-put-down-the-textbooks, Christmas break read?

  13. I've been meaning to read this. You've inspired me to actually put it on my TBR list!

  14. I looked up this review because I have been trying to read this book since last Christmas and just can't get through it so I thought, "I wonder if Janssen liked it" and I guess you did! I don't know what my issue with this book is but I read about 5 pages and that's all I can read at a time. I usually like all the books you recommend so I'll keep trying to read it!

  15. I found your blog through Kim Mays and I love it!
    Now on to Shannon Hale- I love her and I actually really loved Austenland. Maybe it's because I related to the whole opening scene and the Pride and Prejudice obsession. I thought it was hilarious.
    I was really hesitant about reading this book because of the premise but I saw your review and decided to give it a go and I liked it a lot. I'm surprised so many others hated it on goodreads. I thought she handled Mormonism quite well. Like you I agree that it would be interesting to hear a non-LDS perspective. My mother in law wrote Taken by Storm and people are ruthless to her about how she handled it.
    It's amazing how Shannon Hale can cross genres and still be amazing!

  16. I liked Austenland better that than the Actor and the Housewife, which dragged for me until the half way poing. Looking forward to the Austenland movie!


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