THE GUNCLE by Steven Rowley

Two chapters in, I pronounced THE GUNCLE one of my all-time favorite books. Heartwarming and enchanting, this story is tender and wise.

Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP) is an unforgettable hero. The once-famous TV star, still grieving for the love of his life, has retreated into his Palm Springs desert home with only his Golden Globe and weekly housekeeper for company. Curmudgeonly, but with a huge heart and a flamboyant sense of style, he’s lost in a turmoil of memories.

Everything changes when his sister-in-law (also his semi-estranged best friend) dies. After he forces himself out of hiding to fly back to Connecticut, Patrick discovers that his brother is entering drug rehab. Worse, he expects Patrick to become the temporary guardian of sassy 9-year-old Maisie and adorable 6-year-old Grant. To make the decision a no-brainer, Patrick’s brother has chosen a 90-day facility near Palm Springs. How can a guy say no?

GUP knows nothing about kids, which prompts hysterical dialogue and hastily made-up rules by the gay uncle (Guncle). Here’s one of my favorites: “Guncle Rule number five: 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 open any unfamiliar apps.”

Together Patrick, Maisie, and Grant share unique adventures as they turn inward to heal—with the help of a pink tinsel Christmas tree, over-the-top pool floats, a rescue dog called Marlene, and a meteor shower.

As my millennial son would say, this book has all the feels. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath as these three navigated the slalom ride of grief surrounded by a full cast of quirky characters, including the gay throuple next door. Underneath the giggles is a powerful story about the true meaning of family, about how you don’t have to ‘speak the same lingo’ as someone to bond, about daring to be happy even as you process tragedy.

And now, I intend to read everything else Stephen Rowley has written.

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