My book club chose Labor Day by Joyce Maynard as one of our February books. This is probably not a book I would've picked up on my own, but spurred on by the film release, we plopped it onto our respective e-readers and were off and running.
13-year-old Henry and his reclusive, emotionally fragile mother, Adele, live alone until the day they encounter a bleeding man who needs help in a local store. As it turns out, the man, Frank, is an escaped convict with a big heart, a tragic past, and a penchant for making pie.
I know. It's just as unrealistic as it sounds. The genesis of the conflict in this book is totally eye-rollingly ridiculous. A single mother who is a basket case and idolizes her only son just says OK when a convict wants to come home with them? And then they sort of fall in love (lust?).
So now you're thinking that I REALLY did not like this book, but the oddest part is that it was compulsively readable. I found the writing style pleasant and quick-moving, and the overall character development was quite good. There were some really affecting revelations about both Frank and Adele that helped justify their actions, though I still had a terrible time "buying in" at the beginning.
I'm not a huge fan of teen narrators, but that element of the book also helps make the story a bit more believable. As Henry looks back on this Labor Day weekend he may be viewing the goings-on through a hazy lens, so to speak. He also remembers this period in his hormone-charged life as something of a sexual awakening of his own, which could conceivably make those portions of Adele and Frank's relationship more prominent than they would've been otherwise,
It was tough to buy in, but ultimately I'm glad I read this book because it falls squarely outside my comfort zone, and it did provide some good fodder for book club discussion. I also read it in two days flat. I haven't sucked a book down that fast in a while.
Have you read any of Maynard's other books? What would you recommend?
Pub. Date: July 2009
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Bought it!