Monday, August 2, 2010

Blog Tour and Review: Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

I must admit that I've had my eyes on this book since it first came out, and thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours I've finally had the opportunity to read it!  Thanks so much Trish because I absolutely loved this book!

Here is a summary of Labor Day from the Harper Collins website:

With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, lonely, friendless thirteen-year-old Henry spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming with only his emotionally fragile, long-divorced mother for company. But everything changes on the Thursday before the holiday weekend when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank asks Henry for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons, about the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting those we care about above ourselves—and that real love is worth waiting for. 

From acclaimed author Joyce Maynard comes a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery as seen through the eyes of a young teenager—and the man he later becomes. 

My Review:
I've always loved Labor Day weekend-being the weekend that we say goodbye to summer, so I think that was part of the attraction for me with this book.  This story takes us into the lives of a young boy and his divorced mom as it covers the events that take place over a Labor Day weekend many years ago.  Henry is an adult now and he is basically retelling how the series of events that took place that weekend many years ago changed and reshaped his life.

As a young boy Henry watched his mother change from a vibrant and loving woman to someone that was basically afraid to interact with people or leave her home.  When his father left and remarried, started a new family, things only became worse at home for Henry and his mother.  Here is an excerpt from page 31 that described what Henry was thinking about how his mother may have felt:
I could feel her loneliness and longing, before I had a name for it.  It had probably never been about my father really.  Looking at him now, it was hard to imagine he could ever have been worthy of her.  What she had loved was loving.

The Thursday before Labor Day everything changed for Henry and his mother when they walked into the hardware store.  They bumped into Frank, who appeared to be wounded and trying to hide.  Before you know it they are driving home with Frank in the car, offering to give him somewhere to rest for the weekend.  This is the part of the novel that I know many people did have a problem with, indicating that no-one would willingly invite a stranger into their home.  I do agree with this in most cases, but it is important to realize that at this point Adele, Henry's mother, was obviously mentally unstable and was not able to make rational decisions.

The atmosphere within Henry's home changes throughout the weekend as he sees a sense of normalcy slowly creeping back into their daily routines.  Rather than opening their usual can of Campbell's soup for dinner, Frank cooks them a meal of the best chili they have ever had.  Frank even teaches Henry the proper way to make a pie crust so they can make a homemade peach pie.  Henry gets a glimpse over this weekend of some regular family interaction and realizes how much he craves this lifestyle.  Here is an excerpt from page 106 that explains how Henry is excited to be able just have fun as a kid:
And the thought occurs to me that here is one of the best parts about his showing up.  I am not responsible for making her happy anymore.  That job can be his now.  This leaves me free for other things.  My own life, for instance.

I thought the writing in this book was wonderful and I just found myself loving the story.  As I was nearing the end I found myself flipping the pages to find out how many pages I had left because I didn't want it to end!  There are some parts of this book that some of you may not enjoy, as Henry is a thirteen year old boy during this time and there are physical changes happening to him that he is trying to learn to accept.  This didn't take away from my enjoyment of the novel as I found the writing beautiful.  I think this would make a great book club selection with themes of coming of age, acceptance, love, and secrets.

Since Labor Day is next month, I suggest that you pick up this book to read over that weekend-I might just read it again over that weekend because I enjoyed it so much.  Joyce Maynard will be joining Book Club Girl on Blog Talk Radio on August 30th at 7pm ET, and you can listen here.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by Harper Collins to participate in the TLC Book tour.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I LOVED this book Jo Jo and her newest bood The Good Daughters is awesome as well.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

that was good not bood LOL

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book too! Henry was such a great character and my heart just ached for him.

Ti said...

Did you read the stuff in the back? About Maynard's own experience with a prisoner? Very interesting!

I really liked Labor Day. It surprised me because I really thought it was going to be chick lit.

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) said...

Great review! I'm definitely adding this to my To Read list.

Jo-Jo said...

Bibliophile: I will have to add The Good Daughters to my list now....I didn't even notice that you spelled 'bood' until you mentioned it! lol

Kathy: My heart just went out to Henry...what a hard situation the story was for such a young boy.

Ti: I read some of the stuff in the back but I must have missed her experience with a prisoner. Now I borrowed my book to a friend so I will have to wait to read it...darn it! lol

Lisa: I think you will like this one and as Ti pointed out, it is definitely not chick lit.

Alyce said...

I've seen mixed reviews of this book, mainly for the reason you pointed out - about whether or not it was realistic that she would invite a stranger in. It's good to know that you enjoyed the book so much though.

Heather J. @ TLC Books said...

"I am not responsible for making her happy anymore." What an enormous responsibility for any child to have. I'm really looking forward to reading this - it sounds fantastic!

Thanks for being a part of the tour - I'm so glad you enjoyed the book as much as you did.

Esme said...

I read this book a year ago and just loved it. Especially the pie making discussion. I have missed the part about her experience with a prisoner.

Jo-Jo said...

Alyce: I just loved the writing in this book, so that helped my appreciation of the book immensely.

Heather: I hope you like it too. My heart just went out to Henry as I felt he really missed out on a childhood.

Esme: The pies...I loved that part, and how that helped to shape Henry into the adult that he became!