If Full House’s Uncle Jesse had been an actor instead of a musician and gay instead of a womanizer, you’d have Gay Uncle Patrick (referred to affectionately as GUP by his niece and nephew).
When we first meet Patrick O’Hara, he’s a semi-retired former sitcom star who’s exiled himself to Palm Springs with nothing but a big empty house and his coveted Golden Globe to keep him company. He’s witty, charismatic, and wholly self-absorbed—a stereotypical Hollywood darling if ever one graced the screen.
His tranquil life is interrupted when his best friend and sister-in-law Sara passes away from a long illness. He learns that in addition to the tragedy of Sara’s death, his brother Greg is addicted to painkillers and needs to check himself into rehab for the duration of the summer. While he’s in rehab, Greg asks Patrick if he will take care of his children, Maisie and Grant.
Initially, Patrick is aghast at the prospect of being the sole caretaker to two young children who have just lost their mother, but he reluctantly agrees. It’s only for the summer, after all, and he feels like it’s the least he can do for Sara—a final act of kindness.
Patrick’s first bumbling interactions with his niece and nephew are comedic gold because it is obvious Patrick is not used to entertaining children. His oblique pop culture references would be lost on almost anyone outside of a drag bar, so he might as well be speaking Japanese for all Maisie and Grant understand him.
Throughout their stay Patrick realizes how much he’s been missing from his life. As taxing as the children can be at times, they give him purpose, direction, and clarity. In the midst of grieving for Sara, he also starts processing the loss of the love of his life which we learn happened several years prior to the begging of the story. He finds his way, so to speak, at the same time he’s helping Maisie and Grant learn to navigate the scary new world that’s deprived them of their mother and isolated them from their father.
The story benefits from having several strong supporting characters, and Rowley’s narration of the audiobook version of his book is superb. The Guncle is a perfect mix of comedy and drama, with plenty to satisfy casual readers at the beach as well as the more serious-minded members of the literati. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Favorite Quotes from The Guncle
Anger, when justified, is glorious.
How can you tell where you’re going when you’re always looking up at the past?
You don’t want to live with Grandma and Grandpa. Why? Because they think Fox is news and raisins are food.
You can’t spell nemesis without me, sis, and you do not want to make me your enemy.
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