Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Review: Man of the House by Ad Hudler

I was asked to review this book for Front Street Reviews

"Man of the House" by Ad Hudler

Published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

“Man of the House” is the follow up to Ad Hudler’s original semi-autobiographical novel, entitled “Househusband”. While I hadn’t read the original book, it didn’t take long to become invested in the lives of Linc Menner and his family. Linc was once a well-known landscaper for celebrities but traded in his successful job for the opportunity to raise his daughter full time. That was thirteen years ago and we now find the Menners in the midst of a chaotic renovation of their newly purchased house in Naples, Florida after moving from upstate New York.

Linc’s wife, Jo, works eighty hours a week as a hospital executive and travels regularly. As such, over the years Linc has developed an affinity for cooking pretentious meals, a meticulous cleaning regimen and even an unanticipated caregiver’s intuition. While Jo appreciates her husband’s dedication to his role as the caregiver, she finds herself frustrated with his recitation of his day’s trivial details and constant sharing of his feelings. Their daughter, Violet, also enjoys spending time with her father but is fed up with his over-involvement in her social life and school matters. However, they should have been careful what they wished for, or at least what they complained about because things begin to drastically change around the Menner household. After Linc overhears nasty remarks made by the contractors questioning his manhood, he begins to transform into a macho man and leaves his feminine side behind. As if making up for lost time, Linc becomes Rob the contractor’s protégé, accompanying him on all of house calls and learning about construction. He starts buying gun magazines and frequently the local gun range, much to Jo’s dismay. Add to the mix, Violet’s English teacher, Jessica Varnadore, whose obsessive affection for Linc borders on stalker territory. The chapters narrated by her are some of the quirkiest parts of the book and also the ones that slightly scared me, such as her photographing an unsuspecting Linc while picking up Violet from school and using those pictures as a background for her cell phone (enough said).

I thoroughly enjoyed Hudler’s sense of humor and felt a connection to his writing. There is much satire of the typical suburban housewives and their inevitable judgment and sometimes fear of Linc. He does not fit the cookie cutter mold of what a caretaker is ‘supposed’ to look like and how they are supposed to act but what I liked best is that didn’t bother him at all. I really loved his character and appreciated the fact that the story is based on Hudler’s real life, which helped make for a very realistic read.

Beyond the humor and the likeable characters, “Man of the House” explores profound sociological questions regarding gender relations. Linc was relatively comfortable with his non-traditional role as the family caregiver until he was bombarded with contractors and plumbers, who seemed to exude masculinity and made him feel inferior. Once he starts bringing out his masculine side, Jo is confused and torn but also relishes in the time she gets to spend with her daughter. The inevitable guilt that society imposes on women who work and consequently are forced to spend less time at home is explored. There are also themes of the unavoidable sacrifices that a caregiver must make when dedicating themselves to running the household.

The book is told from the very different perspectives of Linc, Jo, Violet and Jessica in alternating chapters. Hudler succeeds in convincing the reader of each character’s unique identity and there were times when I was in awe that all points of view were written by the same author. “Man of the House” is a funny, poignant and very worthwhile read!

Now I’ll leave with you with a little taste of the great Linc Menner’s satirical humor:

“Percent of prep-school moms who assume you know who their husbands are and what company or practice they own: 92

Average number of meals these women cook from scratch at home each week: 1

Number of times these women’s ponytails bounce in thirty seconds due to fake-exuberant head-nodding with another such woman: 8”

Number of times I laughed out loud while reading “Man of the House”: countless

For more info, visit Ad Hudler's website and hilarious blog


Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the cover of this book!

Sheri S. said...

I know! Sometimes I find that book covers do not reflect what the book is going to be like at all, which I find sort of misleading but this book cover gives a great idea of what the book will be about (fun and quirky)!

Anonymous said...

I'm Sheri too... you just don't see our spelling that often!


Have a good one!