Book review: The Guncle by Steven Rowley

This is the second novel by Rowley that I’ve read. The first, The Editor, I thoroughly enjoyed and wrote about back in 2020, here. So when I was racing through a bookstore at Boston’s Logan Airport, I was pleasantly surprised to see Rowley’s 2021 novel, The Guncle, and picked it up before heading out for a holiday weekend of fun at the beach.

The novel introduces us to Patrick O’Hara a once upon a time famous actor who starred on a popular TV sitcom – now on reruns. The actor turned recluse left Hollywood and retreated to Palm Springs after the show ended and he lost the love of his life. However, he is forced to leave Palm Springs after a death of his former best friend and sister-in-law. Returing to Connecticut for the funeral is anything but smooth sailing as family rifts and distrust surfaces but his bond with his brother is unshakeable and when he confides that he is addicted to opiods and will be checking into rehab to get his life in order to be the father his two children now need, he begs Patrick to take the kids back to Palm Springs with him for the summer – until he can get his life back in order. Initially horrified by the request, Patrick relents when his older sister asserts herself and tries to take the children.

What ensues is absolute hilarity. The interactions and bond that develops between Guncle, Maise (age 9) and Grant (age 6) is heartwarming. Rowley’s funny sense of humor which was pervasive in The Editor is on display here as well. Soon after Patrick brings the children back to his home Palm Springs this exchange takes place while out at breakfast.

“You’re forty-three!” Maise bellowed.
“Who are you the DMV? Lower your voice.”
“That’s almost fifty!” Grant’s eyes grew big.
Patrick took the jab then closed his eyse and bit his lower lip;
the observation was just shy of a hate crime.

Patrick’s nickname “Guncle” takes some getting use to but eventually he embraces the title and takes to it by sharing what he calls “Guncle’s Rules” to teach what he believes are important life lessons for the kids. A personal favorite is Guncle Rule #5, “If a gay man hands you his phone, look only at what he’s showing you. If it’s a photo, don’t swipe. And for god’s sake, don’t hopen any unfamiliar apps.”

I won’t go into anymore detail other than to share this was a really fun read and one that I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a lighthearted novel to read.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. You’ll be able to order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for The Guncle.

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner
Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square
Porter Square Bookstore in Porter Square
Trident Bookseller’s & Cafe in Back Bay


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