cover image The Guncle

The Guncle

Steven Rowley. Putnam, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-54228-5

In this heartwarming, hilarious novel from Rowley (The Editor), an erstwhile sitcom star ends up taking care of his niece and nephew. Patrick O’Hara is four years out of the limelight and living in Palm Springs, Calif., when he learns his best friend and sister-in-law, Sara, has died after a long illness. While Patrick is in Connecticut for the funeral, widower Greg confesses he’s developed an addiction to painkillers. Patrick agrees to watch over Greg’s children, Maise and Grant, nine and six, while Greg spends a few months in rehab. As Patrick navigates his grief and responsibilities for the children, who call him their “Guncle” (or “GUP,” for gay uncle Patrick), he contemplates a comeback. Fortunately, he has help from a new agent; the “throuple” of three men next door; and his sister, Clara, despite Clara’s skepticism over the value of Patrick’s screwball antics for the children. Rowley finds humor and poignancy in the snappy narrative, ordered by a series of “Guncle Rules” (“number five,” applying to the adult content in Patrick’s apps: “If a gay man hands you his phone, look only at what he’s showing you”) and deepened by lessons the grief-stricken children learn via Patrick from generations of gay life. Readers will find this delightful and illuminating. Agent: Rob Weisbach, Rob Weisbach Creative Management. (May)