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Jenna Bush Hager says her April 2024 book club pick is 'equal parts humor and love story'

What would you do with an endless supply of significant others?

Jenna Bush Hager calls her April 2024 Read With Jenna pick, "The Husbands" by Holly Gramazio, "equal parts humor and love story."

Lauren, the protagonist of Gramazio's debut, walks into her London home and is surprised to find a man there. Not just any man, but her husband. When that husband goes up to the attic, another husband walks down the stairs, taking his place. And on and on it goes.

"I love the concept. I think it's a commentary on swiping and dating in the modern world," Jenna tells TODAY.

As Lauren meets man after man, she begins to weigh their qualities and wonder who might be worth keeping around for the long-term.

"It makes you think about what we need in order to feel our best. Who we need that makes us more powerful, more brave," Jenna says.

"The Husbands" by Holly Gramazio

Gramazio tells the book was partly inspired by sitting with friends while they go through their online dating apps, "and the sense of weariness they're feeling at swiping through this endless spell of faces, again and again."

A video game designer, Gramazio says her first attempt of "The Husbands" was a narrative game, in which a player "jumped sideways" between relationships. But she says it didn't work on a narrative level.

A few years later, she says she wondered, "What if this was a novel instead of a game?" Then, she came up with the idea of the magic attic, which "really brought it together" into a book. Having grown up in Australia, where there aren't attics, Gramazio says they always seemed a bit magical to her.

For her debut novel, Gramazio had to come up with a host of husbands. She created a husband generator, inputting 1000 names, 500 places, 500 hobbies, 500 jobs. “You’d hit a button and you’d get a random husband, with two to three sentences,” she says. “A lot of them you’d be like, ‘This isn’t anything. This doesn’t feel like a person.’ But sometimes. you’d be like, ‘This could be a guy!’”

She made the decision to have Lauren choose between husbands, because there should be a sense of "impact to her life," and "gravity to deciding who to end up with."

The husbands all spoke to Lauren’s personality. For example, Lauren is not great at decisions, Gramazio says, so some husbands address that in various ways.

“Amos, her terrible ex, has all sorts of rules about things that are bad to do. That helped structure her apprehension of the world. Michael is always trying to do the right thing in a way that’s eventually a little bit exhausting,” she says.

While it's about the search for companionship, Gramazio isn't sure her book could be classified as conventionally romantic, since it pushes against the idea of "the one."

"I don't believe there's a single right person for for everyone. I don't believe in the concept of 'the one.' But believe in the concept of 'several possibles.' There are people that it's just feels really great to be in a relationship with and you end up being better versions of yourself than you would have been otherwise," she says.

“Finding a person that you can spend time with and be excited to see them and feel like they help you be a better version of yourself — what a delight. What a gift," Gramazio says.

The book is also a chance to explore difficulties around making decisions, romantic or otherwise.

"I've always been really bad at making decisions. My mom has stories of how when I was little, she would take me to the ice cream shop. 10 minutes later, she'd drag me away in tears because I'd be so torn between raspberry and lemon. I missed out on ice cream altogether out of fear of getting it wrong," she says.

That's an "extreme case," Gramazio says, but knows people feel something similar in their daily lives.

"Every decision you make is giving up on other possibilities," she says. "We often have an urge to keep as many doors open as we can, even at the cost of going through one much nicer than this hallway."