The Actor & the Housewife: Open Thread

July 5, 2009 @ 6:21 pm | Filed under: Books

actorhousewifeI know not many of you have had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve had a couple of requests for discussion of this book, so I’ll go ahead and open a post for it now. Chime in when you can!

Here’s my post about it.

You can read the first chapter at author Shannon Hale’s website.

WARNING: There will very likely be spoilers in the comments below, since it’s difficult to discuss any book without discussing its plot. That’s why I’d rather do most of my book-talking in the comments rather than in a post. These open threads are an attempt at a compromise between my oh-I-just-read-this-and-am-dying-to-talk-about-it urges and my deep abhorrence of plot spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

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18 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. I am a little afraid to read this book only because the last book I read that was recommended by someone didn’t come with a warning about the graphic bedroom scenes and vulgar language. Mind you, I am no prude, but I really don’t enjoy reading it over and over when it seems completely gratuitous. Rant over.

  2. Nope, no graphic scenes, some vulgar language–Becky (the housewife) does not approve of Felix (the actor)’s vocabulary. Felix doesn’t spout off often but he does get rolling a couple of times.

    I wonder if I was the someone who recommended the book you had a bad experience with? It’s certainly possible—I seldom mention those things because I start overthinking: my preference/comfort lines may not be drawn in the same places as other folks’—especially regarding profanity, which doesn’t much bother me. And then, too, I’ll think “but is it serving a purpose, is it a true reflection of a character?”—and sometimes that’s yes, and sometimes no. (Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, for example, is a book I found quite interesting and relevant, worth reading, but sooo wished the whole teen sex subplot hadn’t been there.)

  3. Do not worry about gratuitous anything in this book! It is very clean and funny.

    I was worried to read it because I was so worried that she would cheat on her hubby and that it would portray a religious woman in a negative way.

    I am happy to say that neither of those happened. It was a happy, feel good, laugh out loud book.

    It also had a surprising ending. I thought it was going to end one way and it almost did, but then it didn’t and I was glad.

    So, this is a little cryptic, but if you have read it you know what I mean. I will come back and comment more after others have. 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you started this thread! As Sheridan mentioned in her comments, I too was worried this book was going to put a religious woman in a compromising situation. I was reading it just straining to find some behavior that didn’t ring true for such a happily married woman. So I was impressed with Shannon Hale’s ability to make Felix and Becky’s friendship so deep yet also so chaste.

    Here come spoilers if you haven’t yet read:

    What bothered me was the ending. After being emotionally battered by the cancer plot line I was so completely wrapped up in Becky & Felix’s friendship that I wanted it to become something more. I loved the part when Becky’s daughter Fiona theorized that this might have been part of God’s plan for Becky; not that she was going to save Felix but that their unique friendship would help her heal and move forward in life.

    I am a hopeless romantic and lover of schmaltz so I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me with the ending. I had gone full circle: wanting no romance for these married friends to prove that Becky was moral, wanting no romance when they were both single to prove that they really were just friends all along, & finally to believing they were more than friends and being happy for them. I just was irritated to have to switch viewpoints one more time.

    That’s just my two cents! All in all, a very enjoyable read even with my quibbles about the ending.

  5. I can’t decide how I feel about this book. To be honest, the first part felt like I was watching a schoolgirl’s daydream/fantasy. You know, the kind where you imagine yourself finding the perfect clever comeback to every comment thrown your way and the hunky guy notices how beautiful the fire in your eyes is when you are being intellectually charming and feisty. You knew you weren’t the prettiest girl in the room but you were sure that you could capture his attention with your sassy wit. OK. Maybe I was the only schoolgirl who had fantasies like that. Because of those memories, I had a hard time bonding with the characters (being older and wiser now than when I indulged in those dreams) although I did appreciate reading the witty banter and chuckled quite a bit.

    I liked that fact that they never crossed the line physically while they were married but I really felt like they crossed the line emotionally and psychologically. Felix occupied her daydreams, her thoughts even sometimes her desires and I think Mike was right to feel hurt by their relationship. I didn’t like how much Becky still focused on Felix even after she decided to give him up for Mike.

    Now, I say all of this as a woman who never really had girl friends, always guy friends, so maybe my opinion is clouded. My husband is my best friend but he wasn’t my best guy friend at the time that we were dating however I knew that being the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with he had to be first in every way. Becky kept saying that Mike was her one and only but her thoughts and actions regarding Felix didn’t support that statement and that’s what Mike sensed I think. I also felt like their relationship at the beginning of the novel wasn’t very real but by then end it had grown to be what they had been saying all along that it was so I wasn’t tricked at all when she ended up laughing at him after that passionate moment on the mountain. I loved how she realized that it helped her heal and showed her that she could open her heart to romantic love someday. That is what Mike would have wanted.

    Oh and, have you ever seen the later seasons of the British spy show “Spooks” also known as “MI-5”? I kept picturing Rupert Penry-Jones as Felix and Olga Sosnovska as Celeste. They had good chemistry and she is so exotic looking! Hugh Grant doesn’t do “rogue” very easily in my opinion (although he was great in About a Boy). His puppy dog eyes are better at the sweet stuff. Rupert Everett is too good at playing the rogue and can’t pull off the sweet stuff without seeming vaguely gay. Colin Firth…maybe. Couldn’t really picture anyone as Becky, not even myself. Maybe it’s because I’ve known too many people named Becky. They kept trying to creep in where they shouldn’t have been. I did enjoy reading this book better than the other one I mentioned and am interested in reading more by this author.

  6. One more thing… I thought the relationship between Mike and Becky was the most real on in the book up until the end. A friendship like Becky and Felix’s has to be grown. It has to be nurtured and pruned and weather some pretty ugly storms. That’s why it felt flat at the beginning when they kept insisting that they were best friends for lack of a better phrase. I loved the way that they grew together in the end but mostly I loved seeing a beautiful example of a happy marriage in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.

  7. Somehow, I botched that first sentence in the cut and paste. Guess I was sniffing the rubber cement. Should read:
    I thought the relationship between Mike and Becky was the most real in the whole book until Felix and Becky’s in the end.

  8. Diana, I had the same reaction to the ending—feeling flattened. I was thoroughly enjoying the ride right up until that point. The description of the two of them flopping over each other in laughter—I see what the author was going for but thought it was overdescribed, and it would have taken a perfect execution to get me past my disappointment. I’d loved Fiona’s take on the relationship (though the fact that Fiona articulated it so clearly made me suspect no marriage would actually occur).

    And yet…it would have been troubling in other respects to see Felix and Becky pair up at the end; I think that might have backward-colored their entire relationship, suggesting the existence of more attraction and longing (on Becky’s part—Felix had it all along) than would be appropriate given the strength and beauty of Becky & Mike’s relationship.

    What I loved about this book, though, was the believable and hilarious banter, the way Felix couldn’t help but fall for (in a friend sense) Becky and her family, the authenticity and warmth of a way of life so different from his own. I loved Becky, her unabashedness, her sense of humor, her passion for the family.

    And I appreciated the novel’s freshness, its liveliness, its confidence.

  9. I had mixed feelings about the book too. It was a pleasure to read, yet like Charlotte (Matilda) I felt there were some lines crossed, even if not physically. It actually led to a great discussion between me and my husband about where those emotional lines should be. I asked him why it seems all right for a woman to have a female friend she chats with and opens up to, and seems more iffy for a woman to do the same with a male friend. He said he thinks it’s hard for a man to have an emotionally intimate relationship with a woman without wanting to go further. So maybe it’s the whole thing of erring on the safe side.

    Aside from those issues, though, I enjoyed the book and had a hard time putting it down for a day or two. The ending surprised me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was the best outcome. It was hard to picture Becky and her family really being part of Felix’s world, and hard to picture Felix really, sincerely, wanting to become part of Becky’s world. Maybe that’s just narrow-minded thinking on my part, but I think Becky would end up happier married to someone with more in common with her.

    Thanks for a place to talk about the book!

  10. I read a piece of Catholic fiction years ago (which I won’t name here because frankly, it was horribly written) where two of the main characters end up married to each other after each losing a spouse through illness or something like that. They had been family friends for many years. It really left a bad taste in my mouth to go back and read a scene at the beginning of the novel (which was the author’s attempt at foreshadowing) where these two were dancing together at a wedding reception and felt a connection. Even though no lines were crossed, it still bothered me that the author was hinting at this relationship while they were both married to other people. If that’s what you mean, Melissa, by backward coloring the relationship, I completely agree. And while I did believe that Felix had grown and changed enough to be able to sincerely desire to become a part of Becky’s world, I agree with Tamary that Becky would ultimately be happier with someone who shares her lifestyle and beliefs. This has been fun Lissa. Thanks for hosting the discussion.

  11. Ohhh, I think I know the book you mean, Charlotte, and I felt the exact same way about that scene/relationship! But then, there was a lot about that book that bothered me. (If we’re talking about the same one.)

  12. […] —The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale (see my post and our discussion) […]

  13. I’m jumping in late to the party here but it can’t be helped I only finished the book tonight. What a roller coaster of a ride. Funny and sad and yet the characters felt very real to me – even if the situation didn’t always.

    When they were on the mountaintop I was rooting for them to get together – but then when they didn’t I realized that was right somehow. That the ending really remained true to Becky and Felix and the friendship they had.

  14. […] The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. (My post; our discussion.) […]

  15. Oh, Lissa, I am so very glad for (a) your recommendations and (b) the place to chat about this book. Because THIS is a book that needs discussed!

    I have finally organized my thoughts, posted my review (which will go on my site tomorrow), and now I’ve read through all these comments.

    I couldn’t put this book down. What I loved the most, I think, was the characters, the believability of someone like Becky and someone like Becky being such a wonderful main character.

    I agree with Charlotte/Matilda that there was some flatness to the Felix-Becky relationship at the beginning…but was that because it was just so stinkin hard to fathom at first? I mean, what are the odds that any of us will have that sort of encounter, much less have it followed up once, much less many more times?

    The ending…oh, the ending.

    I think, after a few weeks of cooling off and thinking a bit, that it was the best thing. I hear what you’re saying, Charlotte/Matilda, about the backward-coloring thing, and that wouldn’t have been right. It would have made it seem like the religion thing didn’t matter, that the circumstance was somehow trumping her convictions. (Not sure I’m wording that right…I’m thinking on the fly and running out of time…)

    I will say, though, that I have rarely read a novel that was so REAL to me. I mean, usually when I’m “obsessed” in my novel-reading, it’s a book like Twilight or something that’s really not, well, something you want to go to bed with, you know? But Actor and Housewife, for its small failings, succeeded, I think, in being bright and beautiful. (OK, I am logging off now. I think I’m going a little over-the-top.) 😉

    Lissa, thanks for hosting this discussion. I’m so glad to finally get over here to yak about it! 🙂

  16. I just finished reading this today (I had to wait a while for it from the library). I, too, had mixed feelings. Frankly, I was willing to suspend disbelief at the beginning because it was fun however unlikely, and it helped that the author emphasized over and over how random it all was which kind of made sense in the end when you saw it was Providence rather than circumstance that brought them together.

    Am I the only one who was really hoping that Felix would get back together with his wife? I thought that his falling for Becky and loving her kids might result in his being willing to help Celeste raise her baby since the reason she left him in the first place was because of his unwillingness to have a family.

    I also thought that it was weird that she was seriously considering marrying him even though he was divorced. I get that *he* wasn’t religious and she wouldn’t have seen his marriage as sacramental, but I would have thought she would view his previous marriage as still a sacred thing.

    I think it sort of lost some of the believability when it had her star in the movie with him. I would have believed his being in her movie and her being on the set because it was her screenplay, but not her being cast. I guess that was the only way Becky would have kissed him while married?

    Overall, I really enjoyed it. The banter was very funny. The overheard conversations at the potluck were priceless, and the part where she told the funny story about the girl thinking Charlton Heston was president next to her husband’s story about the funny nickname in an e-mail projected on the wall at work was so funny and poignant. His story *was* funny, but just not the same. It made me relate to her a bit better because while my husband is a very funny guy and makes me and others laugh often, there is a certain part of my sense of humor he doesn’t “get.” I find some things hysterical that don’t thrill him a bit, and I could really feel the awkwardness that comes in almost wishing you thought the story your husband told was as funny as he did (or vice versa).

  17. I am coming in so late into this conversation that probably no one will even read it. That’s okay,though, cause I just have an overwhelming need to write out my thoughts.

    I just finished the book and I am amazed at the conflicting thoughts/emotions this book has evoked in me. First, having recently read Austenland (another Hale book,) I was prepared to dislike this book as much as I disliked Austenland. In the beginning, with all of the contrived humour and unbelievability, I thought I was right about this book. Then it started taking a turn. The quick wit between Felix and Becky wasn’t so contrived, actually, it started turning out to be humorous. So humoruous, in fact, that I could forgive Hale for the unbelievabiliy of the plot.

    I fell for this story, hook, line and sinker. I needed to read about Becky and how she strived to be a good wife and mother. I needed to read about Becky’s relationship with her husband. I needed to read about all of that.

    To my way of thinking, the ending was perfect. If she had married Felix then the ending would have been predictable and I am so tired of predictable. That Becky was willing to live on her own without a man took courage and is so anti-contemporary fiction. I agree that the mountain top scene was too much but I loved the book so much that I am willing to forgive Hale for it.

    The thing that I did have problems with was that even though Felix and Becky did not have a physical affair, they definitely had an emotional affair. This is just as wrong. If her marriage to Mike was as perfect and as fulfilling as it was portrayed then why let her friendship with Felix go so far as an emotional affair.

    The other thing I had problems with was the cancer bomb. I wasn’t at all expecting this and it blew me right out of the ballpark. I am reading this book during my recovery from cancer surgery. Hale glossed over Mike’s cancer, the effects on the family, all of the emotions, etc. She did this whole situation a disservice. She gave the cancer and its effects on the family, oh, maybe 6 pages at tops. That was it. Cancer cannot be discussed effectively in 6 pages. This irritated me.

    Regardless of my problems with the book, I did enjoy it. It touched me deeply. Also, I am so relieved that it was not as shallow as Austenland.

  18. […] The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale (notes and discussion) • Strangers and Sojourners by Michael D. O’Brien (one of his best) • Plague Journal by […]