Thursday, January 8, 2009

MAN OF THE HOUSE by Ad Hudler


http://www.authorsontheweb.com/ sends me ARCs sometimes. That's where I get most of my books which start out as hardbacks in the stores. Many months ago after passing on several they offered me, I emailed them and said I was ready for a new Women's Fiction novel. However, it couldn't be about a Bitter Divorcee or Never-Married Baby-Hater. Women's Fiction seemed to be in that Trend Hell at the time, but that was my point of view and it could have been skewed. Then, in November, I think it was, they emailed me about MAN OF THE HOUSE. It's Commercial Fiction, officially, I think, but I consider it Women's Fiction because it takes issues which are traditionally assigned to women and turns it on its head. Well, you know I love it when things get turned on their heads. I bore easily. I'm a buffet kind of girl.

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Linc's mother was a dedicated feminist and he grew up to marry a dedicated feminist, a hospital administrator. When they had a child, he gave up being a landscape architect to become a Stay-At-Home Dad. Now, if he'd had other stay-at-home parents as friends, they could have given him great advice which would have enabled him to avoid all the difficulties he goes through in this book.

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Linc's daughter, Violet, is 13 years old and attends school full-time. If he was my friend, I would have gently told him he'd outlived his usefulness as a stay-at-home parent and needed to either have another child, become a homeschool parent, or *go back to work!* For those of you who have no experience as a stay-at-home parent, I should tell you it's scary to stay home for several years and then face the prospect of returning to the work force. Staying home is a radical lifestyle change and going back to work is another radical lifestyle change. It can be terrifying. However, it is essential or you'll end up like Linc, obsessing over the proper names of decorator fabric colors because you need a way to still feel useful in the home. Thank God I'm not to that point yet because I'm working on Baby #5 and I educate our children at home. The only time I worry about my carpet color is when someone barfs on it and I hope the stain blends in. I don't have time for anything else.

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So, if only Linc realized and accepted that he needed to get his flabby butt back into a paying job outside the home, he would have had it made. But, he doesn't and his wife, Jo, is too preoccupied with her own work to notice. And Violent hasn't known life any other way.

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Linc has been an excellent stay-at-home parent. Violet is confident, healthy, and has a wide range of interests not typical of 13 year olds who are left to their own devices by parents who are too self-absorbed to spend any time with them. In some ways, he may have been too excellent, because he left little mothering for his wife to do and she emotionally disconnected from the job. I did that as a Certified Professional Nanny without realizing it too, so I knew not to do it as a parent. Sharing the care and building the other parent's confidence is so important.

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Anyway, the story starts with Linc dropping Violet off at her new school. They've just moved to Florida and the new school is one of the best private schools there. Kudos for making Violet's education a financial priority over sending her to a public school and buying a sailboat instead! Unfortunately, finances are not the only sacrifice Linc must make for Violet's education. There are no other stay-at-home dads among the students' parents. He only sees the mothers and they're all too self-important to befriend him. Like I said, if only he'd had some fellow stay-at-home parent friends...

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Linc and his family moved into a house in need of remodeling. They could have stayed in a condo while the work was done, but he insisted they live in the construction zone. No doubt, he needed to do it in order to feel useful. Having to live with sawdust and no working kitchen and such for long periods of time soon takes its toll on the family. Worse yet, seeing all those macho men working on his house reminds Linc that he hasn't done anything manly in a really long time. Pretty soon, he's following the guys around and learning how to pee standing up again.

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Once again, Jo is too distracted to realize where all this is going. Violet realizes something weird is going on with her great dad, but she's never known him any different and is, therefore, hardly in a position to help. Linc starts going to a manly gym and lifting weights. Pretty soon, one of Violet's teachers gets the hots for him. Between hurricane season and the construction zone, Linc starts muddling his way back to manhood. But, when that teacher's interest starts to get more than a little creepy, the poo really starts to fly. By then I was thinking, "Hang in there, Linc! Don't be an idiot! You've almost found your way!" But, remember, this is NOT a Romance novel. You are not promised a happy ending. If you want to find out how it ends, you'll just have to read it yourself. I found the ending believable and satisfying, so it's definitely worth your money unless you only read Romance novels.

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I always enjoy Commercial and Women's Fiction for one reason besides how engaging the story is. It seems to me authors have a lot more freedom with it than genre fiction, like Science Fiction or Romance. Violet, 13 years old, gets her own point of view in this story. I double-dog dare you to find a Kick-Butt Heroine in the Romance genre who ever even gets knocked up from all her graphic nookie. It's so...bizarre and unbelievable. Reading a story without a child in it is like drinking decaffeinated coffee, even if it tastes fine there's no kick. But, I've whined about that before. A lot. MAN OF THE HOUSE was a very welcome change.

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The violence level in this story bearly registers and the sex happens behind closed doors.

2 comments:

Captain Hook said...

That sounds like quite a book. Must put it on my To-Read list.

Kimber An said...

If the hardback is too much, it'll probably be out in paperback within a few months. I know finances are tight for everyone right now and am thankful I get most of my books free as a blogging book reviewer.

Thanks for stopping in.