Patrick O’Hara, sort-of-retired television star, is living an uneventful, solitary life at his pristine Palm Springs home when tragedy strikes: his sister-in-law (and dear friend) dies young, and her children, ages 6 and 9, have to come live with him for the summer. The only problem: Patrick does not do kids, let alone two who are grieving the loss of their mother. Flying back from Connecticut with his new young charges, Patrick wonders how he’ll survive the next few months. But as the summer passes, having the kids around makes him rethink the choices that have brought him to his very isolated life, and maybe – just maybe – consider re-entering the larger world.
Patrick (aka the Guncle, short for “gay uncle”) is a larger-than-life character with no shortage of opinions about everything. He is also hilarious. He’s got a snarky one-liner for most situations, or a quote from Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker. Patrick’s cluelessness with the kids is adorable; there’s a scene with the three of them crammed into an airplane bathroom trying to find a lost tooth that had me rolling. He also has a whole bunch of quirky rules on how the kids should live their best lives, most of which go way over their heads. Palm Springs is an ideal setting too, with its history as a refuge for Hollywood stars and the LGBTQ+ community, and it is fun to meet, and learn from, Patrick’s gay neighbors.
The premise of a clueless uncle raising kids is not a new one, but in author Rowley’s hands, it is executed in a fresh way, with charm and biting wit. I discovered Steven Rowley a few years ago after his terrific debut novel, Lily and the Octopus (see review here). Rowley has also made his own hilarious trailer for The Guncle, which gives you a great sense of the tone of the book. Check it out at https://www.stevenrowley.com/the-guncle
This heartwarming, funny book comes out on May 25, so you can add your name to the hold list now. It’s a perfect warm-weather read, with just the right tone and message. I’d highly recommend it for your summer reading list!