Editorial note: I received a copy of The Guncle in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley is a heartwarming story about family, grief and belonging. I loved it.
Steven Rowley is one of my favorite authors! I just absolutely adore all his stories. So you should just go ahead and buy all his books now. That was an easy and quick review, right? Haha. But seriously, there is just something about his writing—the way he crafts humor and heart all on the same page. It sounds so cliche but I truly laughed and got teary eyed at many parts of The Guncle. Just like I did with his previous novel, The Editor. His writing is such a joy.
I also read The Guncle at just the right time—I haven’t loved a lot of books I’ve read this year. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some wonderful books. But I have also found myself quite disappointed as many books are very heavy with little payoff. I was actually about to start a heavy book when I decided this was the right time for The Guncle. And what a breath of fresh air it was.
What’s the Story About
Patrick, also known as Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP), is a famous actor who stepped away from the spotlight. He’s been somewhat hiding out in Palm Springs where he lives an easy life. But tragedy strikes his family—his sister-in-law passes away from cancer and his brother is dealing with a health crisis. Patrick is then asked to take in his niece and nephew for the summer. While daunted, he has a handy list of jokes and Guncle rules to try and keep it lighthearted and hopefully distract them from their grief.
But he soon learns he’s in over his head with taking care of children. And he also hasn’t processed all the losses in his life, including that of his great love several years back. While he expected to teach the kids all kinds of lessons, he learns about what is really important and also how to move forward.
I loved the dynamic between Patrick and his niece and nephew. It’s breezy and fun—Patrick really does serve as that cool uncle everyone wants. But taking care of the kids is not an easy task, especially as they have just lost their mother and their father is dealing with issues of his own. While Patrick instills plenty of life lessons and fun humor, he soon learns that they also need a stable figure in their life. Something Patrick never planned to be.
I think the book is at is most charming when Patrick really allows himself to not only fully love these kids but receive that love in return.
Dealing with Grief
If you’ve experienced a loss, you know that grief never truly goes away. You learn to live with it and do move on in some ways but never completely. It always is there in some way. So sometimes reading stories about a loss is tough. But I thought Steven wrote about the subject with such care and also with honesty.
Not only did Patrick lose his sister-in-law, who he was so close with for many years, but he also lost the love of his life in a car accident. He covers up his anguish using humor as a shield but even he can only do that for so long. His journey to acceptance and moving forward is very moving.
I truly loved this novel and I encourage you all to read it! For book clubs, check out my questions here.