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Host Family [Hardcover]

Mameve Medwed
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 3 2000
Daisy and Henry Lewis have been married for twenty years. They live near Harvard University where they have long served as a host family for its International students. With the departure of their son for college (less than a mile away) the empty nest turns into a gaping hole. Henry starts calling himself Henri, spattering his conversations with au contraires and mais ouis. She should have seen "it" coming. On the night they win the Host Family award, Henry tells Daisy over sushi that their marriage is finis. Daisy tries to pick up the pieces by falling in love with a parasitologist named Truman Wolff who finds extraordinary similarities between the behaviour of tapeworms and humans. But just as life is regaining some equilibrium, the arrival of a devastatingly good-looking Italian student shakes up the symbiotic combinations and challenges everything Daisy and Henry believe about the meaning of family and the meaning of love. In Host Family, Mameve Medwed, author of the wickedly funny Mail, delivers an irresistibly witty and heartwarming chronicle of the way we live now.

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From Amazon

Mameve Medwed's second novel follows the breezy Cambridge formula of her popular debut, Mail. Daisy Lewis is a warmly practical, solidly attractive supermarket ombudswoman whose 20-year marriage to Henry, a computer-virus expert, is comfortable and familiar, though no longer exciting. If Daisy grits her teeth a bit at Henry's pretentious passion for all things Français, she's still happy enough, and the Lewises enjoy playing "host family" to a series of slightly forlorn international students. Even when Henry is led astray by a très belle mademoiselle and announces to Daisy that he's writing finis to their marriage, Daisy is more surprised than devastated: "If her marriage ends, the toilet will never get replaced, she supposes. As soon as she thinks this, she is amazed. Her world as she has known it for twenty years is falling apart, and she focuses only on the most inconsequential domestic details. The loss of a power flush rather than the loss of a husband. But it makes sense. She can wrap her mind around a toilet. Marriage, husband, love, life are territories too vast to get a purchase on."

Happily, Rebound City is just around the corner. Henry's laid low by food poisoning that same night, and on a visit to the hospital Daisy meets Truman Wolff, a parasitologist whose ex-wife ran away with a French pastry chef. Drawn together by a series of such small coincidences and serendipities--including the fact that her son and Truman's daughter are madly in love--the two begin living together, though Daisy refuses the doctor's frequent proposals of marriage. When they agree to host an Italian student named Andrea, all hell breaks loose in some very funny--and very uncomfortable--ways. Will Daisy and Truman find their way back to the relationship they're clearly meant to have? Yes, of course, and there are a few other surprising reconciliations along the way. Host Family gives a warm and funny, if not entirely new, twist to the idea of symbiosis. --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Cambridge and the outskirts of Harvard life are again the settings of Medwed's (Mail) new novel, a cuttingly funny yet heartwarming tale full of hilarious twists and practical wisdom. Henry and Daisy Lewis, who have been serving as host family to international Harvard students for the past 20 years, find themselves at a crisis in their marriage. It seems that the series of visitors from the Third World has exhausted Henry's patience. In reaction, he becomes a voracious Francophile and falls for their latest exchange student, a French beauty named Giselle. The breakup of the Lewis's marriage coincides with the departure of the couple's cherished son, Sammy, to college (Harvard, of course), but 42-year-old Daisy, a community relations manager for a grocery chain, learns that change can be a good thing when she fatefully meets Truman Wolff, a parasitologist whose studies of "virus-host relationships" seem particularly apt. In this novel of comic connections, Daisy's son and Truman's teenage daughter, Phoebe, fall in love. For a couple of years, the two pairs sustain their respective relationships, though marriage-wary Daisy remains unwilling to spoil a good thing by accepting Truman's proposals. The introduction of another foreign body--this time a handsome young Italian man--threatens this stability when the studly student and Phoebe fall in love, causing Daisy to reject Truman in a fit of allegiance over Sammy's broken heart. But tables continue to turn; characters forgive, forget and move on; and Daisy finally realizes that it's time to go after a love "every bit as identifiable and tenacious as one of Truman's parasites." Medwed balances broadly drawn characters, such as the ludicrously pompous Henry, who sports a beret and calls himself "Henr!," with Daisy's perspicuous insights on the nature and possibility of lasting romantic commitment, expertly combining here the larger-than-life and the true-to-life. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. 4-city author tour. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good summer read... June 23 2000
Format:Hardcover
In the early part of the 20th Century, Virginia Wolfe wrote in "A Room of One's Own" that women needed to kill the Angel in the house. She was referring to a woman's propensity to care for family members at the expense of herself--and in Wolfe's case--sacrifice her writing.
Although middle class women don't have a lock on being the "Angel" in the house, they are the audience Wolfe was speaking to -- educated women who might want to do something with their lives other than be the chief cook and bottle washer in charge of maintenance and repair.
Daisy Lewis eventually learns how to take care of herself, but she certainly takes her time getting there. When Daisy isn't handling complaints at the supermarket where she works as ombudsman ("Why not ombudswoman?" asks her friend), she's organizing food banks, washing her college son's dirty laundry, cleaning up her husband's vomit and other excrescences, or hosting foreign students for Harvard.
On one level, the book title refers the family that hosts foreign students, but on another level, it refers to the "hosts" that attract parasites and viruses--organic and manmade. Daisy's ex-husband Henri (nee Henry) is a computer virus expert and a bit of a parasite himself. Daisy's new beau is a parasitologist who isn't a parasite but he brings them home.
I found the book entertaining, and read it in two sittings. I laughed out loud once, but the text is amusing and others may laugh more. I love wordsmithing, and was most entertained by Medwed's command of English (English majors should love this book). Her wordplay is as graceful as a trapeze act. A familiarity with literature, world affairs, and internatinal cuisine will probably make many of the book's wry comments and asides more understandable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very satisfying Feb. 18 2000
Format:Hardcover
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry and Daisy Lewis seem to share a happy marriage that is still going strong after twenty years. They are proud of their son Sam who is about to attend nearby Harvard and look forward to hosting this year's foreign exchange student, an activity the couple has done for years.
However, this year the idyllic marital world of the Lewis family changes when Henry informs Daisy their relationship is over. He becomes the biggest lover of all things French, taking off with their latest student, Giselle. Although a bit stunned by the instant destruction of her marriage, Daisy quickly rebounds when she meets virus-host researcher Truman Wolfe. Over the next couple of years Truman proposes frequently but Daisy rejects any thought of a second marriage. Sammy falls in love with Truman's daughter, but she chooses a foreign hunk over him, leaving Daisy to wonder if it is time to drop her lover.
HOST FAMILY is an entertaining, witty look at the wacky world of modern American relationships. The story line is filled with enough twists and turns to keep readers from ever losing interest in the bubbling story line. Though there is a relatively large ensemble for a novel, the key characters are fully developed so that the audience can moan and groan in tune to their actions and reactions. As with her first novel, MAIL, Mameve Medwed displays the American scene (at least the Cambridge part of it) in a warm, humorous, and enjoyable tale that will widen her growing fan base.

Harriet Klausner
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2.0 out of 5 stars VERY dull and boring Feb. 2 2000
By :)
Format:Hardcover
Sorry, folks, I must demur. This book is boooooorrrrrriiiiiinnnnnggggg. I was a big fan of "Mail". I looked forward to this one. Thud. Ms Medwed is a skilled writer, facile with the language and capable of being very witty. But I suspect she needs to get out of her Cambridge cocoon, see the world a little. I wonder how autobio this thing is. Will Daisy and Truman get back together? I hardly cared enough to limp through to the end of the book. The metaphorical hook got worn down to a nubbin. Yeah, they are a perennial "Host Family", surrogate parents for foreign students at Harvard. And Truman (Daisy sure didn't have to suffer without a man for long, did she? About 42 seconds, I reckon) is a parasitoligist, studying vermin and THEIR host families. Get it? Get it over, and over, and over? How about ONE more time? These people lead very sheltered, unchallenged lives. But all their teensy problems get disected, bisected, examined, re-examined ad naseum. Maybe this would have made it as a short story, but there's not enough meat here to drag out over 300 pages. Maybe - and I know I'll get shot for this - it's a woman's book. Maybe it suffered from the fact that I'd just finished "Lying with the Enemy", where the problems of the folks living on Nazi-occupied Isle of Guernsey were very real and very complicated. Compared to - sigh - which sushi restuarant do we go to tonight? And I KNOW I've endured enough descriptions of tapeworms, ringworms, lice, etc., to last me forever. Sorry. Oprah, here's your next honey-baked ham.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Host Family Feb. 8 2000
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed Mail and was looking forward to this book. I wasn't disappointed. It is different then Mail, despite being also set in Cambridge. Readers who like predictability in an author, might be disappointed. The wit, humor and rich description remains the same but it has a different feel. I found it showed versatility in the author and makes me even more excited for book three from this new (or is someone with two quality books under her belt, no longer new?) writer. This book (as with Mail) left me feeling as I would after a successful evening out with new individuals. I enjoyed the people, the stories and want to stay in touch my new found friends (and keep up on the gossip on those I would rather not call a friend). I bought this book for a friend who went to the Kennedy School of Government (where a part of the book takes place) but it is an enjoyable, fun read I would give to someone who had never set foot in Cambridge.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
I had finished all the books I had brought with me on our vacation and a woman lent me this book to read. I was pleasantly surprised never having read Medwed before. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2002 by Dr. Jekill
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Dose of Home
As a Bostonian living overseas, I enjoyed this book for two reasons. The first is for all the reasons the others have said. It's funny, witty and moves along at a nice clip. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2001 by Joyce L. Tompsett
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Dose of Home
As a Bostonian living overseas, I enjoyed this book for two reasons. The first is for all the reasons the others have said. It's funny, witty and moves along at a nice clip. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2001 by Joyce L. Tompsett
3.0 out of 5 stars Way Too Much Symbiosis
"Host Family" has a good plot line about the intersecting relationships of a Harvard family, its various members and the international students to which they have played... Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2001 by Tracey A. Nettell
4.0 out of 5 stars Enticing Read
This is a book that grabs your interest from the beginning and keeps you reading until you finish and then you want a sequel with the same great, quirky characters. Read more
Published on June 27 2001 by Amy Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars Puts the head lice experience into hilarious perspective!
"Need a laugh and a little help putting your head lice experience into perspective? Check out this hilarious new novel by Mameve Medwed about a woman whose husband deserts... Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2001 by West Cambridge Lady
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab View of Cantab
Medwed cuts out a slice of Americana, life in Cambridge, MA, and serves it up perfectly. Tasty morsels of information about local sights and customs blend well with narrative... Read more
Published on July 20 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Savagely Funny, Not Quite Good Enough
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The setting, the characters, the sense of a cycle in marriage were all attractive elements. Read more
Published on July 4 2000 by Beverly Lucey
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, Delightful, De Best!
This book is so funny, so poignant, so intelligent. I wanted it to go on for ever, and even though I finished it weeks ago, I'm still thinking about the characters, wondering how... Read more
Published on April 9 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVED IT!
Mameve Medwed proved she could write with her first delightful novel, Mail. In Host Family she proves that she is brilliantly sophisticated and captures puns, twists, Cambridge,... Read more
Published on April 5 2000 by Marilyn Koshland
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