I finished my new favorite book The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. I found it in a magazine months (or years) ago and added it to my book list. As usually happens, it was exactly the right book at the right time.
The book is about a stay-at-home mother of three pregnant with her fourth child who meets her celebrity crush in real life as she's selling a screenplay that she's written in her "free time." Unexpectedly, the two feel an immediate connection though they are both married. The story is about how this two through the years balance their marriages, lives, and best friendship with each other.
The prose is beautiful. The narrator's voice is fresh and unexpected. Mostly this novel gave words to a friendship I have in my own life that has always felt mysterious and indescribable. I recognized what she described when the two main characters meet and can't seem to move away from each other. I experienced this as a very young woman and felt instantly at home with this person while also feeling very alone because I'd never heard the kind of connection I felt described by anyone I knew.
This story also celebrates the mysteries of life and trusting one's gut. Both things I have been meditating on a lot lately. This is the power of fiction: to tell stories that help readers find themselves in the midst of scenarios that are both familiar and foreign and provide the space to move around in this alternate reality and to view one's life from a different perspective. Maybe reading any genre allows for that, but it seems that fiction is particularly good at providing that space.
It's also interesting that this book would find its way to me in the same week that I met my friend twenty-three years ago. I likely would have missed that little anniversary had the book not gotten me thinking about this friend and our peculiar connection. Again, it feels like a powerful dose of serendipity--my favorite thing--was at play.
The story was so entertaining I couldn't put it down and it had more plot twists and turns than I could have imagined. It left me wondering how the story would resolve all the way up to the very end.
The more I read and the more I write I am drawn to the ideas of conveying and finding the "me too!" and "we are not alone." The Actor and the Housewife definitely satisfied both. It's a book that has left me missing the characters and motivating me in my own work.
I feel so grateful for this title and its timing. It has now joined the ranks of my other favorites: Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons.