The other night I started a book by Shannon Hale called The Actor and the Housewife. I have read and adored many of Hale’s other novels: The Goose Girl, Princess Academy, Austenland. But this may be one time I actually put down a book of hers before I’ve invested even 100 pages.
The story has to do with the unlikely meeting and blossoming frienship between a married Mormon housewife from Utah and an (also married)attractive British movie star. I am completely torn on how to feel about a plot that is at one turn so totally unbelievable – their witty, effortless banter is painfully contrived – and altogether too real – the dangerous emotional kalaidescope of becoming close to a man who is not your husband.
I cannot figure out what Hale is playing at. Her female lead continually downplays the situation by telling herself:
- I’m just a frumpy housewife, what romantic ideas could he possibly have about me?
- I’m not doing anything secretive, I’ve told my husband everything.
- I love my husband and kids.
But…at the same time, she gets giddy every time the actor calls, misses him when he doesn’t, and notices things like the way he leans his thigh into hers when they are dancing together.
I believe the novel is meant to be light and humorous, with touches of sentimentality; I’ve seen it described as “chick lit” in many places online. I feel like I should trust Hale’s talent and track-record for creating great work and finish the book. Many women I know have, and truly enjoyed the read.
I’m just having a terrible time getting past my idea that this kind of potentially detrimental emotional entanglement isn’t something to make light of. Married spouses becoming friends – like going out to dinner, talking frequently on the phone, confiding in each other kinds of friends – with members of the opposite sex can be a messy business. I don’t know if I’m prepared to have a story about it handed to me with a few chuckles.