book review

Review: “The Husbands” by Holly Gramazio

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

  • Doubleday, 2024
  • Hardcover, 343 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-385-55061-1
Book cover: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Here’s a summary of the book, with a little help from Goodreads:

The unmarried Lauren returns home late, and slightly tipsy, after a girls’ night out and finds a strange man, Michael, in her apartment. She quickly discerns that Michael is her husband and that the apartment is similar to, but not exactly like, it was before. Then, “Michael goes to the attic to change a lightbulb and abruptly disappears. In his place, a new man emerges, and a new, slightly altered life re-forms around her.” After the same process occurs a few more times, Logical Lauren realizes “that her attic is creating an infinite supply of husbands.

The plot, I admit, is a bit bizarre, but I’m willing to go with a speculative story line that imaginatively examines some aspect of human experience. But this novel disappointed me—not because of what it contains, but because of what it lacks.

First, it lacks any kind of set-up for the “magic attic” stuff (I’m not asking for a scientific treatise here, but there should be SOMETHING to initiate my suspension of disbelief).

Second, there’s very little engagement with Lauren’s reaction to what’s happening and why. I would have liked to see her think about herself, her life expectations, her desires, her values, her aspirations, the meaning of love and of life, etc. There are some overtures toward this when husband Bohai emerges from the attic; whereas Lauren remains at home and receives various husbands, Bohai is a husband who has been traveling from attic to attic. The two of them have a good laugh over the situation and even make a game of creating sticky notes listing the traits they’d like to see in a spouse, but there’s no follow-up to this once Bohai climbs back upstairs and disappears. 

Finally, the novel lacks an ending that has any suggestion of the meaning of Lauren’s whole extended experience. I did keep turning the pages because I hoped that there would be some kind of payoff (both for Lauren and for me, as reader) with the ending, but there wasn’t. I’m left only with the hope that, in some parallel universe, the magic attic lands atop the house of a protagonist more able and willing to learn from it.

If you find the premise of this novel intriguing (as I did), read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

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