The Irresistible Henry House

The idea for this captivating novel came from a photograph of a naked baby boy “with a beguiling smile and roguish eyes” the author found on a Cornell University website about the history of home economics. He had been a “practice baby” supplied by a local orphanage to the university’s “practice house,” where college students learned mothering by taking turns with a real baby. There once were hundreds of such houses around the country and thousands of babies who spent the first year or two of their lives being cared for by multiple “mothers” before being adopted out. What effects did this have on these children? Grunwald wondered. This book is her effort to answer the question. Set in the years following World War II, it follows the life of Henry House, a little charmer who grows up to become a big charmer, a man who knows how to please women but not how to trust them. We follow him from his infancy as a “practice baby” through the tumultuous 1960s as he seduces and then abandons one woman after another before facing the truth about his damaged childhood. Rich in characterizations and settings, this is a delightful tale beautifully told.