Becky is, well, a housewife. She's married to a man she adores, has three kids and another one on the way. She bakes and cooks and is involved with her church. She also just managed to sell a screenplay and who should happen to interrupt the meeting with her agent but Felix Callahan, Becky's long-time Hollywood crush. They share some banter, then find they're staying at the same hotel so they share a cab and dinner. Then Becky heads home, happy to have a story to share with her family. Until Felix shows up again. And their friendship starts to grow. Becky's husband, Mike, isn't sure what to think and Felix's wife, Celeste, just seems to be amused. Can Becky and Felix just be friends? And what happens when both of their worlds turn upside down? Can their friendship survive?
Read on to see 10 Things I loved about The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale.
- The Premise: Okay, so it's far-fetched. But there are a lot of people who have dreamed about meeting a favorite actor or actress. Then to find out you truly enjoy each other's company? And even end up being best friends? What fun to explore that idea.
- Becky's Commitment to her Family: From looking at other reviews I know a lot of people didn't feel that Becky's actions matched her protestations that her family is important. And I think Shannon Hale intentionally walks a line here looking at the idea of an emotional affair (rather than a physical one). I personally felt that Becky continually chose her husband and her children over her relationship with Felix. When Mike gets uncomfortable, she ends the friendship, and it isn't until he becomes okay with it that she picks it up again. At every turn she's considering how it will impact her husband and her kids. She thinks and considers whether she's crossing any lines and always tries to choose what is right for all of them, though she also realizes that she is a person and it's okay for her to have interests (writing and friends) that are not centered in her family.
- The Theme: Basically, Shannon Hale explores the question: can men and women be friends in a purely platonic sense? Hale seems to think so. But it's not an easy conclusion to come to. Both Becky and Felix as well as the people in their lives grapple with how and if it can work. I get so frustrated with a culture where a guy and a girl can't be friends without people assuming they're dating or having an affair or involved. Yes, it's tricky, and Hale doesn't make it simple. But is there really any reason a male and a female can't be friends without being more?
- The Banter: Oh the banter. Less than five pages in and I had already literally laughed out loud. Seriously, if I ever meet a man I can banter with like Felix I will never want to let him go - we will become friends or I will marry him. Becky and Felix play off each other in the most hilarious way. They honestly reminded me of the way my family talks at family dinners.
- Becky's Kids: They're kind of sidebars to the story, but each one is real and, if not fully drawn, at least filled out enough for us to care about them.
- The Struggles: Not only do Becky and Felix have to deal with the challenges of being friends with someone of the opposite sex when you're married, but both characters have to deal with life - both small and large challenges. And a lot of the book is about them being there for each other during really hard times and stepping in or out as the occasion needs.
- The Time: Though this may lend at times to a bit too much telling rather than showing, I liked the fact that the book followed them through years and years. They go through times of stepping back from each other's lives because things are too crazy or busy. They go through periods where they grow closer together. It's a journey and Hale doesn't rush it.
- Becky's Faith: This was another thing I noticed in the reviews - some people (both religious and non-religious) were turned off by this aspect. I heartily applauded it. As a person of faith myself I hate that religion is in many ways a taboo topic (unless the author is mocking it or showing how dangerous or creepy or horrible it is). Unless it's explicitly a "religious novel" so often it feels like religion dare not be spoken of. Which, to my mind is stupid, because belief, faith, religion is a huge part of many people's lives. Regular ordinary people. So there were some terms that didn't quite make sense. You don't have to understand Becky's beliefs to understand they are a part of her and that they impact her behavior. And I appreciate that Hale didn't erase this aspect of her life.
- The Emotions: I laughed out loud over and over. I cried. Actually, if I'm going to be honest, I sobbed. Like ridiculously.
- The Ending: I was dreading where the book was going from the beginning. Actually terrified and not sure if I even wanted to keep reading (but I couldn't stop), but I need not have feared. Hale brought it to a conclusion that satisfied me. I won't say more because spoilers, but I was happy with it.