The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you looked at this blog, you'd think I fell off the face of the earth. The problem is reading too many books at one time, and then there is that mothering thing and wife thing. So little time for my favorite pass time!
This book was selected as our next book club book. It was a fast read indeed for me. Many of our book club selections this past year have been fiction based on real life events. This happens to be one of them. The book is based on the use of "practice babies" which began at Cornell University back in 1919. Infants were loaned out to universities to be used as practice babies in practice houses (a.k.a. home economics) to be used to teach young women how to mother. Can you believe it? Gives you a whole new outlook on home ec, eh? A set number of practice mothers would take turns caring for the baby throughout the year. Believe it or not, this practice continued until 1969. It draws the question of how this affected these young infants. Did they grow up to have normal lives or disfunctional ones?
The book is definitely a fictional story, but follows the life of one practice baby, Henry. Henry comes to the practice house as a young infant and ends up being raised in this environment his entire childhood. He is loved by so many, yet lives a life desperately seeking love. The author does a good job at allowing you to feel what he feels. My heart ached for him. I could only imagine how he must have felt. Coming from a divorced family myself, I could relate to many aspects of this book.
What amazes me most about this book is that I had no idea practice houses even existed at one time. How can this be? How screwed up was this? It is no wonder the women's liberty movement took place. They were groomed to be mothers and nothing else. It is hard for me to fathom that this was the only choice for women of this time period. How far we have come!!!