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  • Written by Ad Hudler
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  • Written by Ad Hudler
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A Novel

Written by Ad HudlerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ad Hudler

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: September 30, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-50929-1
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

For more than a decade, Linc Menner has raised the status of househusband to an art form. . . .

While his wife, Jo, brings home the bacon, Linc Menner holds down the fort–his gourmet cooking is sublime, his cleaning unrivaled, and his devotion to his daughter, Violet, unparalleled.

But when the Menners relocate from upstate New York to the steamy beaches of Naples, Florida, life takes an unexpected turn. As the Menners renovate their new home Linc’s bliss turns into a war zone of contractors, dry wall dust, and chaos. And suddenly being surrounded by guys whose faces go blank as he expounds on the virtues of lump-free gravy makes Linc realize he has forgotten what it feels like to be a man.

So Linc trades his flip-flops for work boots, and his wild mop of hair for a barbershop buzz, and marches his flabby physique to the nearest gym–attracting the secret devotion of one of Violet’s teacher in the process. And his stunned family watches helplessly as they lose the man who keeps them all together. To make matters worse, it’s hurricane season and there’s a category 5 heading right for Naples. As life on the home front explodes into hilarity and catastrophe, Linc must chart his own delightfully crooked course to finally become the Man of the House.

Praise for Ad Hudler’s Househusband

“With self-deprecating humor and adroit expression, Hudler delves deep into the American psyche of gender roles. . . . The dialogue rings with authenticity.”
–The State (Columbia, S.C.)

“Winning . . . [a] breezy comic outing.”
–The New York Times

Excerpt

1 Linc

Let me tell you about the screwed-up state of things in our house these days. We have no kitchen. We haven’t had one for eight weeks and four days. The refrigerator is standing where a bathroom shower used to be. I am boiling my pasta and making my oatmeal on the grill on the patio. Our kitchen table changes weekly. Right now it’s the new stainless-steel dishwasher, still in the box.

Midnight peeing has become a hazardous endeavor because someone inevitably has left something in the middle of my memorized, sacred, eyes-closed path to the toilet. Nails, screws, wood splinters, gobs of caulk and Sheetrock dust litter the floors, and shoes must be worn at all times. Bathrobes, too, for the girls. We have strange men coming and going in and out all doors of our house for most of the day.

The renovation at 363 Jacaranda St. has been systemic, to say the least, and I know now that we should have moved out for the project. Jo says we still should move out for the duration of the renovation, but how much longer can it take? Staying in this war zone has become somewhat of a badge of honor with me. If we can weather this, we can weather anything, right?

We are gutting all three bathrooms down to the studs. For the time being, we shower in one bathroom, pee in another, brush our teeth in a third, and this configuration changes with each week.

We are redesigning the kitchen and great room. We are replacing all forty-two windows and five doors.

But the biggy is this: We are literally raising the roof—okay, not the roof but the ceiling—of the entire house by eight inches because at six-foot-four I feel like Gulliver in this 1952 ranch home. To do this, we are knocking out the existing ceiling and robbing some space from the attic. Can you say “old crumbling plaster”?

Have I mentioned yet that we’re living here while all this is going on?

Oh, and did I fail to say that hurricane season is just around the corner? Last year’s was the most active on record, and this year promises more of the same. As Violet would say, “Oh, joy!”

I hear the door of Rod’s truck shut outside, and I go to the window to peek out and see if my contractor has parked off the grass this time, as I asked him to do last Thursday.

Yeah, he’s good. The pickup rests an inch or two from the edge of green. His wheels are straight. Everything Rod does always looks solid, angular, sensible. I can always count on Rod. Wish I could say the same of all his subcontractors.

Rod rings the bell on the back door and comes on in, unannounced, as I’ve told him to do. I meet him in the hallway.

“Sure hope you’re a good drywaller,” I say.

Rod grimaces, then scratches at his beard. “I take it Bud didn’t show.”

“Yep,” I answer. “That guy’s allergic to punctuality if you ask me.”

“Damn.”

“Yep.”

“I wanted to get that tile started in the guest bath. Carlos is set for tomorrow.”

“Carlos?”

“My tile guy—and he’s busier than Santa Claus these days. . . . Damn!”

“What?”

“I don’t know when I can get him down here again. That Sheetrock’s got to be hung today.”

“When could you get him here if not tomorrow?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Can’t you do it?” I ask.

“Well I sure hadn’t planned on it. I’ve got to be on Marco Island at six.”

I look at my watch.

“That gives you eight hours, Rod.”

He frowns in concentration, purses his lips, then looks at his watch, which is the coolest watch on the planet. You can tell it’s as old as the hills, an analogue model with Roman numerals, the rounded, crystal face smudged with scratches accumulated over the years, all held on by a brown-leather wristband stained with sweat and speckled with paint. If the designers at Abercrombie weren’t asleep they’d already have come up with a “distressed” model of Rod Hayden’s watch.

“I’ve got a consolation prize,” I say. “You smell it?”

Rod puts his hands on his hips and lifts his nose in the air as Tillie, our cat, does when she’s trying to detect some foreign odor.

“Cherry pie?” he asks.

“Blueberry,” I answer.

Ah, my new weapon! I had been told by a friend in Rochester that the secret to getting subcontractors to show up at your house is to time the serving of aromatic baked goods with the predictable human blood-sugar crashes of midmorning and midafternoon. (Since I have no working oven right now I have to run over to Mrs. Artuzi’s house to use hers.)

I have found this to be especially true between nine and ten in the morning. Up to this point it’s worked well on Bud The Dry-waller, but now he has gone AWOL. I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that the game and fish commission lifted the ban on grouper fishing in the Gulf this week. I know he owns and loves a new twenty-four-foot Sea Ray with two four-stroke Yamaha engines. He talks about it 24-7.

As I do with all the subcontractors, I listen and pretend to be interested and ask questions and give comment—“Yeah, man, I hear ya . . . Cool, very cool . . . How fast can that go again?”—knowing that their wives couldn’t give a damn, and if I prove to be a hospitable sounding board they’ll return more often and finish their damn jobs so my family’s normalcy and happiness can be restored.

We sit down at the ersatz bar in the kitchen, an old door atop two sawhorses. I pour Rod a cup of coffee, which he likes black. I’ve always liked half-and-half in mine, but I’ve been trying it black lately and like it.

He takes a bite and leans back in the stool and closes his eyes as he chews.

“Man, is that good,” he says. “Almost as good as that peach cake-thing. Did you always cook like this?”

“You mean bake,” I say. “This isn’t cooking. There’s a big difference between cooking and baking.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

He chews and says nothing, shrugs his shoulders.

“Cooking is fluid and organic, more impromptu, like finger painting,” I say. “Baking is more exact. More like science. Or like construction. I actually like cooking better. I think it takes more creativity than baking because in baking you have to do everything exactly as the recipe says, and in cooking you’re more your own boss. You’ll be making this sauce, and you might taste it and say, hey, it needs some white wine, or some dried basil might add another dimension to this. . . . I mean, that’s not to say it’s easy. God, no, it’s not. Cooking requires some science as well. Like if you’re using cardamom pods, for example. I mean those little bastards will release their flavor only after a certain point, and then there’s a difference between the green cardamom pods and the black ones.”

Rod nods as he chews.

“And then there’s gravy. I mean that’s temperamental as hell. You’ve got to choose flour or cornstarch, and if you use flour you’ve got to make sure it cooks long enough to get that floury taste out of it, but if you cook it too hot it’ll scorch on the bottom, and then you’ve got to time it right, and let me tell you with my wife’s unpredictable schedule I don’t make much gravy, because once it’s reached boiling point it’s never the same, and I just won’t serve something past its prime. Oh, it goes in the fridge, sure, and Jo always eats it. She couldn’t care less if the food’s lost its integrity. She’ll eat anything. That may sound good, it may sound like it makes my job easier, but it’s also kind of degrading. I mean if she has no standards then why do I try so hard to make incredible meals? You know what I mean?”

I notice that Rod has accelerated his eating. His bite-size has grown as I continue talking. His plate is nearly empty.

“Do you want some more?”

He strains to swallow one last, large bite. “No, thanks. Was real good, though.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

He disappears down the hallway, wiping his hands on the back of his thighs, and as I put the dirty dishes in a tub to take outside to the hose I am wondering why I feel so stupid and vulnerable right now . . . exposed in some way, as if I’ve been caught standing at the curb in my underwear.

Which reminds me: Add toilet paper to grocery list.

Which reminds me: Get clothes to Goodwill.

Which reminds me: Buy copy of Goodnight, Moon for the Weiss’s new baby.

Which reminds me: Trim bougainvillea bushes on trellis by driveway. (See the connection? Remember that line, “In the great green room,” from the book? See it yet? Green? Outdoors? Yardwork?) Stay with me here.
Ad Hudler|Author Q&A

About Ad Hudler

Ad Hudler - Man of the House
AD HUDLER is a stay-at-home dad and author of the novels Househusband and Southern Living. He lives in Fort Myers, Florida, and has visited the Edison home many times. You can reach Ad at his website: www.adhudler.com.

Author Q&A

A Conversation With Ad Hudler


Ad Hudler sat down with his seventeen-year-old daughter, Haley, to discuss their lives and the characters from Man of the House.

Haley Hudler: Man of the House begins with Violet Menner’s entrance essay to Collier Academy.You say that I was your inspiration for Violet. That is the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard in my life. Dad, I know you fancy yourself a fiction writer, but I mean, come on. Violet is me, down to the “Oh, joy,” exact dialogue stolen from my preteen years. What was it like for you writing from my point of view? How did you have to change your writing style to do it?

Ad Hudler: Because I spend so much of my time with you, it really wasn’t that difficult. I have spent hundreds of hours driving teenage girls around in the van, so I’ve certainly got the dialect down. Honestly, Haley, I did have to dumb Violet down a little bit; you have a better vocabulary than most English teachers, but I didn’t think that would be believable to the average reader.

HH: Man of the House is set about ten years after its prequel, Househusband. In that time many important things happened to the Menner family. How did you fit all of this background history into the first few chapters of the book without making it seem contrived to those readers who didn’t read Househusband?

AH: That was the challenge, indeed: making Man of the House a stand-alone book without testing the patience of all my readers who read Househusband. It helped that my editor read Househusband, so she could spot any over- or under-explaining. In retrospect, though, I realize I should have reread Househusband before writing the se­quel because there were some things I forgot. For example, I was speaking at a convention, talking about the sequel I was writing, when one woman in the audience said, “Hey, what happens with Vio let now that she has a sibling?” I thought, “Holy crap!” I’d forgotten that Jo was pregnant at the end of Househusband, and I’d already written 80 percent of the book without the second child. A quick mention of a miscarriage solved the problem.

HH: Knowing that he could have made life much easier for his family by moving out of the house while it was under construction, why do you think Linc Menner insisted that they stay there?

AH: Two reasons: First of all, Linc, as I do, has this inexplicable masochistic streak; he likes to test himself all the time. He is definitely not a path-of-least-resistance kind of guy. Second, the novel would have been much more boring if they had been staying in a condo somewhere. Lots of the household tension comes from the family having to live in a construction zone.

HH: I remember that as you were writing the chapters from Jessica Varnadore’s point of view, you were worried that she sounded over-the-top, almost unbelievable. However, bizarre, abnormal characteristics are common in the characters in your books. What personality traits did you give Jessica to make her a believable character?

AH: I think it helped that she wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, just attractive. I also think talking about how she’d been engaged three times showed a volatility and zaniness that made her actions believable.

HH: I have noticed that in almost every single one of your books, you like to add in parenting tips and advice. Is this your passive-aggressive way of correcting the child-rearing skills of others?

AH: Guilty as charged! No, in all seriousness, I think a lot of parents can be too absorbed in their own lives, and they try too hard to be their kids’ best friends. Parents negotiate with their young children too much. It’s perfectly all right–in fact, necessary–to tell a kid, “Because I said so!”

HH: Yes, but you frequently terrify my friends by attempting to parent them. This goes along with your whole philosophy that you voice in Man of the House: It takes a village to raise a child. How has that been working out for you in real life?

AH: I’ll admit it pisses off some parents, but that’s just too bad. I’ve also noticed that, in your older teen years, Haley, the kids have stopped hanging around this house.

HH: I was happy to see that you included my viewpoint on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I am sure that looking back on her book, there are many things she would have liked to change about it. After writing the sequel to Househusband, are there any things you would like to change about the first book?

AH: I wish I would have made Jo less one-dimensional. I wish I would have fleshed her out more. But, overall, I still really like that book. I think it’s funny, and I think it says some really important things about gender behavior and relations in our culture.

HH: Throughout the book, Violet begins to rely on her father less and less. In fact, she wants to exclude him from certain parts of her life. For example, when Linc takes Violet and her friends to the mall, rather than having him come to the stores with them as she usually would, she asks him to stay behind on “The Man Bench.” I know that I, for one, felt guilty reading these parts of the book be­cause I know that I did do things like that. Was it hard for you to relive those moments as well?

AH: Actually, no, Haley. You’ve been so much better than most other teenagers in that department. You rarely appear to be embarrassed by me or your mother, and you generally show us great respect, and we really appreciate that. You didn’t even mind when I dressed up in an adult diaper and posed as a baby for your friend’s high-school photo project. It takes a cool, confident young lady to weather something like that.

HH: In real life, you began to develop your new masculine tendencies at around the same time our house was under construction and the hurricanes came. How curious. Response?

AH: I suppose the book is a little autobiographical in that way. I have undergone some kind of finding-my-inner-male-redneck metamorphosis, and I think it’s due to several factors. Those hurricanes did bring out the protector in me. Also, you going through puberty and your mother going through menopause have left me scratching my head several times, accentuating my maleness simply because you were experiencing things I could not relate to. But perhaps the biggest influence in my metamorphosis was my good friend Hans. We are a good fit, Hans and I. He not only is in touch with his female side, but he also embraces all those very fun guy traits that I had all but forgotten in the years of being a caregiver. We have cut down trees together. He has taught me how to think like an engineer. We eat at Hooters. The scene in the book where Rod coaches Linc on how to address waitresses as “hon” and “babe” happened exactly like that, with Hans. Oh, one more thing: my boots. I bought my first pair of work boots about three years ago. I’ll tell you what . . . putting on a pair of boots changes a man. You’re two inches taller, and you just start to naturally swagger. I’ve also discovered power-lifting in the last three or four years, and I’ve gained thirty pounds. That, too, has changed my personality somewhat because people react to me differently now that I’m a bigger man. All these changes have kind of fed one another.

HH: Well, the reason I brought that up is because I noticed that the language associated with hurricanes, like “Cat Five” and “cone of uncertainty” seemed to correlate directly with your newfound sense of masculinity. Why would this be? Is this because hurricanes are powerful and unpredictable? Or am I reading too far into this?

AH: You’re reading too much into it.

HH: You frequently complain about the huge lengths we had to go to in order to protect ourselves from the hurricanes. However, in the book you almost seem to look back on these days fondly. You seem to actually enjoy putting so much time and effort into maintaining a stable environment during a disaster. Why is that?

AH: I’m one of the most anal-retentive people I know. Preparing for impending disaster appeals to my need to control my environment. I also have this weird feeling that if I overprepare for some­thing horrible, then it won’t happen. It’s like, “Oh, great, now I’ve wasted all that time worrying about something.” It’s as if by worrying about it I can will it not to happen. In a similar way, I personally keep the plane from crashing whenever I am flying. You all need to know that it is my constant worrying while airborne that keeps us in flight.

HH: In Househusband, the book was entirely from Linc Menner’s point of view. Only he got a say in what was told to the reader. However, Man of the House is from four points of view. Why did you do this?

AH: People cannot see themselves change as much as those around them can. I couldn’t have Linc talk about his metamorphosis because he himself doesn’t understand it. I needed other characters, those people who were close to him, to observe his actions and comment on his transformation.

HH: Throughout the book Linc tries to hide the small changes he is making in his life, almost as if he’s ashamed of them. For instance, he hides his muscle magazines from Jo. Why does he do this? Why is he ashamed of changing?

AH: I’m not sure. I think maybe he feels like a traitor for abandoning his female traits that he’s practiced for so long. Does he feel as if he’s moved over to the competition? But hiding the muscle mags . . . At first glance, they do really kind of look pornographic, all that bulging, bare skin and all on the covers, and the photo spreads of nearly naked people. I think most people would agree that the magazines look like they need to be hidden beneath the mattress.

HH: In chapter 22, Linc uses the phrase “she has a great spirit” to justify his reasons for liking Jessica Varnadore, who happens to be wearing Daisy Dukes when he comes to her apartment. A euphemism, perhaps?

AH: I had to be careful in showing that, despite Linc’s metamor­phosis into manliness, he also remained a caregiver in a woman’s world, and by having him notice her “spirit” as well as her boobs, I was able to show he was a man who saw the world both from the female and male perspectives. Also, I’m not sure my female readers would like him to be all locker-room-talky about her. You notice that I never use the “t” word for breasts, even though most men use that word when referring to them.

HH: Well, now that we’ve finished up this question and answer session, I’m curious about something. How does it feel to be interrogated by your own daughter?

AH: It’s a pleasure, Haley. And I want to say “thank you” because I know it’s hard to have a father who writes so intimately about his family. I know you must feel very exposed at times, and I appreciate your maturity and self-confidence. And I’m sorry that I admitted to the listeners of National Public Radio that the poop scene from Househusband was real–I just couldn’t lie to a national audience like that. Some day, long after I’m gone, I hope these books give you comfort and help you to remember me.

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. The characters in Man of the House are all trying to find an inner balance between masculinity and femininity. Linc is attempting to break free from his feminine role as a caregiver and to get in touch with his masculinity. Jo is a woman who has a profession that usu­ally belongs to a male. As Violet is going through puberty, she be­gins to become more of a teenage girl and less of a companion for her father. Jessica is a femme fatale, but has the aggression of a man. How does the mixture of characteristics from both genders affect each character?

2. How does the popular saying “Be careful what you wish for” apply in this novel?

3. How does Linc’s transformation affect his marriage with Jo? What are the positive changes? What are the negative changes?

4. Women who have read Househusband frequently say that they want a househusband of their own. However, throughout history women have generally wanted the typical masculine man as a mate. Which of these types of men is the most appealing and why?

5. As the book progresses, Linc begins to forget small details he usually pays close attention to. What are some of the things he for­gets? What are some of the small details that get forgotten around your household during hectic times?

6. Explain how Jo’s “intervention” with Linc and the foreboding Hurricane Arturo foreshadow disaster ahead in the novel.

7. Everyone knows that kids change with puberty. However, Violet goes through some very big personality changes. Can some of these be blamed on puberty? If so, which ones?

8. The construction at the Menner household makes it so Linc is surrounded by macho men every day. How did this contribute to Linc’s metamorphosis?

9. Discuss Jessica Varnadore’s progression into a stalker. What does she start out doing that hints to trouble later on in the novel?

10. In chapter 9, after Violet gets her braces off, Linc wants to call someone and share his emotional moment. However, he has no one to call. Why do you think male caregivers often feel so alone? Do they forge relationships as women do? Why or why not?

11. Judging from Linc Menner’s experiences, what can men bring to caregiving that women cannot?


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