Sunday, April 6, 2014

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonement and Nick Hornby's About a Boy, acclaimed author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery as seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy—and the man he later becomes—looking back at an unexpected encounter that begins one single long, hot, life-altering weekend.

This insomniac's opinion:

I have quite a few book "rules" i.e. arbitrary leanings that I hold myself to for no reason at all. One of the aforementioned rules is that I try, at all cost, to read a novel or book before seeing the movie. I want my imagination to fill in all of the holes and subtle notions of a story before a director, actors, etc. have their way with the story. Labor Day will soon be hitting the video store and, in order to be prepared, I snapped up this novel at a used book sale and promptly read it.

If I wouldn't have been in such a hurry to read this novel, summertime would have been a perfect time for reading it. This novel takes place during a heatwave, and is sultry and sexy in a way that no novel set in the wintertime can be.

I have seen many reviews of this novel and it seems to be one that many love and many think is mediocre. Judging by my reader friends that have read and reviewed this one, I would say that those who adore it are generally people who are philosophical by nature and can see past the relative simplicity of the plot of this novel. Those that think it is mediocre seem to be concrete thinkers that couldn't see the depth of the story hiding underneath the shallow waters of the story. So, if you are a concrete thinker, this one may not be for you.

After I suspended my disbelief of a mother willingly allowing a convict into her home with her son, I quickly dropped into the story and lost myself in the sultry romance that permeates nearly every page of this novel. Joyce Maynard manages to convey the confusing burgeoning sexuality of the thirteen year-old narrator and the deep stirrings of reborn sexuality of some of the other characters in the novel. There were scenes in which sex was not at all mentioned, such as the peach pie scene, that dripped with such sensuousness that I, the reader, was stunned.

Overall, I thought this novel was stunning in its ability to weave the reader into an unlikely story and leave them forever changed in their idea of love.


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