In 1946, Henry was taken from the orphanage and brought to Wilton College to become the newest practice baby for the home economics program- a program that taught female students how to run a household and be a mother by having them practice in a real house, with a real baby.
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald follows Henry House from his time as a practice baby, through boarding school and into his adult life working as an animator in New York and London in the ’60’s. It explores the life of a boy who belongs to everyone and no one all at the same time and explores the relationships between Henry and the many women who cared for him at one time or another- his biological mother, the head of the home economics program, a highschool teacher and a variety of friends and girlfriends.
The Irresistible Henry House is a fascinating book. There is such a wide variety of events in the book (Henry’s life as a infant, child, teenager and adult) and in such different locations (the small college town, New York, London) and Lisa Grunwald gives equal weight to each stage of Henry’s life and is talented enough to write each part equally well in a strong voice. I would give this book a 9.5/10 as there were some slower bits where my attention wandered a little.
Although the Irresistible Henry House is a work of fiction, it was inspired by real events. The book came about when author Lisa Grunwald discovered a photo of a real baby who had been used as a practice baby by Cornell’s home economics program. I found both the book as well as the fact that similar events has actually happened to be absolutely mind-boggling. More information about Cornell’s practice babies can be found here.