Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

I totally thought I posted this review, but I did not! Wedding brain must've kicked in before I got it written up and posted because...duh! 

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
Format: E-book
ISBN: 0061843407 
Source: Bought it!

19 comments:

  1. I actually feel quite a bit like you do - as I was reading it, I kept thinking 'Why on Earth am I reading something with this ridiculous synopsis?' but at the same time...I couldn't STOP reading it. Something about it made me want to keep going, even as I was rolling my eyes.

    Very interesting reading experience, to say the least.

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    1. LOL, right??? I think the characters were just intriguing enough to want to find out what the hell they were thinking. lol Interesting indeed!

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  2. At least it was addictive! :D
    What you said about the woman and the convict going home with them is weird, I agree.

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    1. It was very odd, but also somewhat vague and dreamlike. Given the narrator's young age and bias, that made me able to push through to find out more.

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  3. I remember feeling very much the same when reading this one, I think I picked it up when I first heard they were making the movie (I'm a Kate Winslet fangirl...but oddly enough, I still haven't even seen it). Glad it ended up working for you!

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    1. I hear the movie adds some additional elements that help make it more believable. So weird.

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  4. Sounds horrible. I'd probably like it then. I'm so weird.

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    1. Hahaha! That part was horrible, but overall it was oddly enjoyable!

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  5. I was really curious about this one after seeing the movie previews. I think I'll only pick it up if I'm in the mood for something that a fast read.

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    1. Definitely a fast read. Now I'm contemplating trying some more of her work to see if I feel the same way. Hmmphf!

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  6. I thought we had a pretty good discussion as well. Despite the flaws, I thought the characterization in the novel was really strong and I found myself caring way more than I should have whether all would be right for the cast of characters.

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    1. Definitely! And I agree, the characterization was really strong. Once I got past that first part. lol

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  7. This may be either prurient or prudish of me, but all I can focus on now is a woman's sex life as narrated by her teenage son. Hmmm...

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    1. RIGHT??? It was definitely uncomfortable to read in parts.

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  8. I heard a review of the movie version on NPR... It was scathing and hilarious at the same time. I don't know about this premise, but hearing that it's tough to put down makes it sound more appealing.

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    1. Haha! I can only imagine. I love NPR. Try it so we can talk about it!

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  9. Oh how I go back and forth on this one. That premise just is so hard to get past but then so many people do find it a compulsive read.

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  10. How interesting! I think my feelings about my book club's recent read of Sharp Object were pretty similar - I wasn't sure I liked it and was very out there, but it was also un-put-down-able.

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  11. You articulated something that I think I had a hard time doing when I read the book myself--it's totally not believable and is pretty eye-rolling, but the style and the characters make up for that, and that's why I love it. I didn't love it in spite of itself; I just loved it, plain and simple.

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