The House of Gentle Men

In this quaintly addictive tale, the house of the title is a sort of anti-bordello for women, where the male residents provide lovelorn ladies not with sex but with solace, sweetness, and romance. The adroitness with which Kathy Hepinstall carries off this surreal premise is all the more impressive given that the novel is the Austin author’s first. Set in post-World War II Louisiana, the novel traces the lives of two motherless misfits: Charlotte, a voluntary mute who suffered first a rape, then the loss of her baby; and Louise, a compulsive neatnik whose father is the men’s madam (or should that be “sir”?). Both women fall for his newest working boy, a troubled soldier attempting to atone for his past. As the trio search for happiness, they encounter a succession of realizations, such as “throwing scraps to a hungry dog was love; and tending a garden was love; and soaking a white shirt in bluing was love; and kissing the forehead of an aging parent who mixed small talk and prayers in crazy patterns was love — and that they were born to this love, as satin is born to the long, slow stitch.”
by Anne Dingus

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