Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Actor and the Housewife - Shannon Hale

Summary: What if you met your number-one dream celebrity--you know, the one your spouse has agreed you could run off with if ever you had the chance? And of course since it'll never happen it doesn't matter...

Mormon housewife Becky Jack is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets celebrity heartthrob Felix Callahan. A few hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later something has happened, though nothing has happened...It isn't sexual. It isn't even quite love. But soon Felix shows up in Salt Lake City to visit and before they know what's hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends--talk-on-the-phone, drop-everything-in-an-emergency, laugh-out-loud-at-stupid-jokes best friends.

Becky's loving and devoted husband, Mike is mostly unconcerned. Her children roll their eyes. Her large extended family and neighbors gossip endlessly. But Felix and Becky have something special, something unusual, something that seems from the outside--and sometimes from the inside too-completely impossible to sustain. (Summary from book jacket - Image from amazon.com)

Before I begin, a word (or two) on LDS Lit: This is the first LDS Lit book I’ve reviewed, so let me just take a little time to explain what that means to me. First, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints aka LDS Church aka the Mormon church. While I read mostly mainstream fiction, I do like to dip occasionally into the LDS Lit genre and read books by LDS authors or on LDS topics. It’s a nice safe place to read and recommend if you’re looking for something clean and sometimes romantic without too much of all the extras we find in so many novels.

Even though I understand that they come from a significantly smaller pool of authors, I’m going to try very hard to review them as I would any other book and not take it easy on them just because I might someday be in their ward or run into them at Women’s Conference. Here goes.

My review: Wow. Uncomfortable. That's pretty much how this entire book made me feel. I can't explain it...no wait. I can totally explain it. Becky Jack is "besties" with movie star Felix Callahan. I had a difficult time buying this storyline. It was really hard for me to get past the fact that this could never happen. Not in a kazillion years. Never would they meet and hit it off like that. Never would the husband be okay with it. Never would she end up selling two screenplays and acting in one of them. Never. Never. Never. Even the author must know this, as she remarks several times (through one of the characters) how unbelievable it all is. Well she's right. I didn't believe it.

I did, however, try to get past it. Books are supposed to be an escape, and what's an escape if you can't dismiss reality when and where you choose. So I dismissed it. And then I just got uneasy. Little Mrs. Becky Jack is married and running around with a married man. Now I don't know about you, but if Angelina Jolie and my husband all of a sudden started hanging out, you better bet your first born I'd have something to say about it--something HIGHLY unprintable--and Angelina would be limping for the rest of her natural life.

I was a big ball of emotional confliction over the Felix-Celeste-Becky-Mike quadrangle of platonic (and not so) love. I kept thinking (and I assure you, I'm not a judgemental person, really) that Becky and Felix should just call it quits. It felt like cheating. If you can't find the level of male friendship fulfillment you need in your spouse then you probably need to work on your marriage. Becky of course constantly confessed her undying love and adoration for her husband in a highly believably fashion, but persisted in turned into a shriveled up soulless raisin whenever Felix left the page. It kind of bugged me.

There were parts of this book that I loved. Felix and Becky were masters at sarcastic and witty banter. They were self-deprecating and made fun of each others peculiarities (opening up the window for TONS of stereotypical Mormon jokes that I thought were great). I also enjoyed her descriptions of the craziness of home-life for a stay-at-home-mom which were nothing if not completely accurate. My favorite part I can't even tell you about, because it would give away too much, but it made me cry my ever-loving eyes out (like sobbing-on-the-couch kind of tears). I felt it was the most honest portrayal of the entire book and it doesn't come till the latter part of the book.

The ending. Well, I don't think I would have been happy if it had ended another way. But I think a lot of people won't be happy with how it did end. Could I be more vague. I think not.

If you read mostly LDS fiction, you might enjoy this book. It's funny but not preachy and definitely tugs at all kinds of emotions. However, I found that this book didn't quite fulfill my expectations for a great read or even, really, a good one. Personally, I think she is much better at writing for the YA genre and would recommend some of her other books like the Goose Girl series and Princess Academy.

My rating: 2.75 Stars. Fans of LDS fiction might be surprised that there is a teensy bit of swearing in this book, even if it regarding a female dog MOST of the time. It does touch lightly on the topic of Mormonism (as it is a defining characteristic for Becky) but mostly in a humourous, make fun of the green jello sort of way.

Sum it up in one phrase: A over-the-top sarcastic soap opera with a slightly Mormon twist.

3 comments:

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

Hooray for Mindy!!! Finally, a review I agree with! I just finished this book on Monday and thought it the most ridiculous book I've ever read! Every other review I've come across just RAVES about it. I kept thinking, "what am I missing?" I only managed to give it 1 star in my review...but that's OK. (Found your blog thru the MMB directory).

MindySue said...

Yipeeee! Validation! I am not alone in my disappointment.

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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