Hannibal Free Public Library

The Irresistible 
Henry House

Lisa Grunwald

September 30, 2013

2:30 – 4:00 p.m.

Discussion Questions 
1. Trust is a recurring theme in Lisa Grunwald’s novel. Which characters are most deeply affected by its presence or absence? What makes us trust another person, and what happens if that trust is betrayed? Can a relationship recover after trust has been broken?

2. For Martha Gaines, “there was no future for her without Henry. There was only her tiny world, bordered by practice walls and practice floors.” (p. 113) Why does Martha become so attached to Henry, and how would you describe their relationship?

3. Is it possible to love a person too much? Have you ever felt smothered by love? Is there a secret to building a relationship where both people feel equally loved?

4. According to Martha, “a child was something to manage, not to be managed by.” (p. 44). Do you agree with her ideas on raising children? Describe and compare the different child-rearing approaches that are explored in this story. Are they all outdated now, or do any of them still hold weight?

5. How does Henry’s early experience—being tended by a number of devoted practice mothers—affect his personality as he grows up? What is the downside to his unusual upbringing? What are the benefits?

6. As a child, Henry covers the walls of his closet with his own drawings, so that the closet becomes “a place of deep colors, vast distances, and great possibilities.” (p. 141) How is Henry’s life shaped by his artistic gifts? In what ways do these gifts fall short? How are these shortcomings reflected in his relationships with women?

7. “Henry’s silence gave him a refuge, an excuse not to participate, but it was also a weapon for keeping Martha at bay.” (p. 145)  What brings on Henry’s silent period and what pulls him out of it? Why is silence such a powerful weapon? What other psychological weapons do we use against those closest to us?

8. Why is Henry drawn to Charles and Karen at the Humphrey School , and why is the couple’s home so important to him? How does their marriage compare with other romantic relationships depicted in The Irresistible Henry House?

9. At Martha’s funeral service, what does Henry discover as he describes her accomplishments? Do you think his epiphany is a momentary vision or a permanent change of heart? Is there anything truly redeeming about Martha?

10. What makes Henry choose Peace Jacobs, after so many girls and women have pursued him in vain?

Adapted from:   hthttp://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/492-irresistable-henry-house-grunwald?start=3tp://mlhopps.faculty.tcnj.edu/Reading%20Questions.htm