Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review: The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

Back before Christmas, I picked up The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale on audiobook. I'd seen other reviews on the book, and was surprised by the range of responses people had to the story. Having enjoyed many of Hale's other books, I knew I had to see what all the hub-bub was about for myself!

Synopsis: Mormon housewife, Becky Jack, happens to have a chance run in with her Hollywood crush on a trip to LA where she was in the process of selling a screen play. Very pregnant, and very different from the Hollywood life, Becky's chance meeting with famous Felix Calahan has her thrown a bit. The two end up sharing a cab back to their mutual hotel, sparring verbally with one another, and even sharing dinner together after a famished Becky is left to either sit at the bar or call up room service. Felix Calahan plays the aloof star, and although Becky has had a crush on him, she takes him for what he is, just another human being! Striking in her treatment of Felix, and her vibrant personality make Becky stand out and create an impression on the star, and the two become friends.

Over the months and years of the story, Becky and Felix chat on the phone and even share visits when Felix happens to be in Salt Lake City, near where Becky lives. Eventually, the two become the best of friends, and both go back and forth, questioning their friendship. Can men and women really be friends, even if they are both already married? Where these two, very different people meant to come into each other's lives for a reason? Will their spouses understand?

Review: I realize that we each have our own reactions and feelings about a story. In the case of The Actor and the Housewife, I have seen a wide range of these reactions. My own overwhelming feeling of frustration is evidence of Hale's ability to tap into an interesting idea, and to carry it through. While it's fun to consider what might happen if a woman, of an unspectacular background or life, came in contact with her Hollywood crush, I found myself scratching my head (figuratively speaking) throughout much of the book. I haven't been married before, but will say that the relationship between Becky and Felix definitely sounded and felt like love. It didn't seem to help me that I felt distant from Becky's spouse, and that although he was a part of the story, he ended up feeling more like a stock character, with little personality. That feels mean of me to say, but I felt as though after all the detail and time spent on the relationship between Becky and Felix, that her marriage was a kind of afterthought, or one we had to be convinced was better than what she had with Felix.

This adult book by Shannon Hale is an interesting read, and one that I've been asking friends and coworkers to give a try so I could talk to them about it! As for crafting a story to make you think, and to engage your thoughts and feelings, Hale has definitely done just that. I can't say that many authors have really looked at how male and female friendships come into play in a marriage. Hale's line of questioning in the book, to ask where the line is between appropriate friendships and those that threaten a marriage are quite interesting. I'll admit that I was often quite uncomfortable with Becky and Felix's friendship, and through to the end, really believed that there was more there than friendship. This really wasn't my favorite Hale novel, but it is one that made me consider how complex adult relationships really can be. For more information, see: The Actor and the Housewife.

*Review based on library copy of the novel.

This review is linked up at Cym Lowell's weekly Book Review Party. You can stop by there to see other interesting book reviews going up there! This audiobook also counts towards my first in the "Audio Book Reader Challenge," hosted by Royal Reviews. I'm now off to try to find my next great read for my daily commute!


  1. You may have seen my reaction to this book. It was...violent, to say the least. And for most of the reasons you cited here as frustrating you. I didn't buy it for a second and I still feel awful about it. But it felt like manipulation in the worst way to me. It was love. It was never just friendship.

  2. This would make a great "book club" book. I love your review - thanks for linking this up to the party. Wonderful Addition to the Group!


  3. I haven't read a Shannon Hale novel I really liked so I don't think I'll pick this one up. And from what I've heard about it I don't like her portrayal of this type of friendship...I don't think it can exist in the way she portrays...so maybe she just wrote it for shock value and to get people thinking. Great Review!

  4. I have never seen this before, or any Shannon Hale books that I can remember. Love you review and will be adding this to my Wish List.

  5. This sounds like a manipulative book to me (not that I've read it or anything). Soooo she meets her high school crush and they become BFFs and we're supposed to believe all it is is friendship? Doubtful. As for whether men and women can be friends if they're married to other people, I would say yes. But not besties--going to someone else for emotional support other than your spouse could be another form of cheating, to my mind.