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Labor Day: A Novel

Labor Day: A Novel

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Labor Day: A Novel

4/5 (60 valoraciones)
298 página
4 horas
Jul 28, 2009


“Joyce Maynard is in top-notch form with Labor Day. Simply a novel you cannot miss.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of My Sister’s Keeper and Keeping Faith

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonementand 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.

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.

Jul 28, 2009

Sobre el autor

Joyce Maynard is the author of twelve books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoir At Home in the World, translated into seventeen languages, and the New York Times–bestselling novel Labor Day. Maynard’s most recent novel, After Her, also tells a story of sex and murder.    A former reporter with the New York Times and longtime performer with the Moth, Maynard teaches writing at Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, and makes her home in Northern California. 

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Labor Day - Joyce Maynard



IT WAS JUST THE TWO OF US, my mother and me, after my father left. He said I should count the new baby he had with his new wife, Marjorie, as part of my family too, plus Richard, Marjorie’s son, who was six months younger than me though he was good at all the sports I messed up in. But our family was my mother, Adele, and me, period. I would have counted the hamster, Joe, before including that baby, Chloe.

Saturday nights when my father picked me up to take us all out to dinner at Friendly’s, he was always wanting me to sit next to her in the backseat. Then he’d pull a pack of baseball cards out of his pocket and lay them on the table in the booth, to split between Richard and me. I always gave mine to Richard. Why not? Baseball was a sore spot for me. When the phys ed teacher said, OK, Henry, you play with the blues, all the other guys on the blue team would groan.

For the most part, my mother never mentioned my father, or the woman he was married to now, or her son, or the baby, but once by mistake, when I left a picture out on the table that he’d given me, of the five of us—the year before, when I went with them to Disney—she had studied it for at least a minute. Stood there in the kitchen, holding the picture in her small, pale hand, her long graceful neck tilted a little to one side as if the image she was looking at contained some great and troubling mystery, though really it was just the five of us, scrunched together in the teacup ride.

I would think your father would be worried about the way that baby’s one eye doesn’t match with the other, she said. It might be nothing more than a developmental delay, not retardation, but you’d think they’d want to have that child tested. Does she seem slow to you, Henry?

Maybe a little.

I knew it, my mother said. That baby doesn’t look anything like you either.

I knew my part, all right. I understood who my real family was. Her.

IT WAS UNUSUAL FOR MY MOTHER and me to go out the way we did that day. My mother didn’t go places, generally. But I needed pants for school.

OK, she said. Pricemart, then. Like my growing a half inch that summer was something I’d done just to give her a hard time. Not that she wasn’t having one already.

The car had turned over the first time she turned the key in the ignition, which was surprising, considering a month might have gone by since the last time we’d gone anywhere in it. She drove slowly, as usual, as if dense fog covered the road, or ice, but it was summer—the last days before school started, the Thursday before Labor Day weekend—and the sun was shining.

It had been a long summer. Back when school first got out, I had hoped maybe we’d go to the ocean over the long expanse of vacation ahead—just for the day—but my mother said the traffic was terrible on the highway and I’d probably get sunburned, since I had his coloring, meaning my father.

All that June after school let out, and all that July, and now just having ended August, I kept wishing something different would happen, but it never did. Not just my father coming to take me to Friendly’s and now and then bowling with Richard and Marjorie, and the baby, or the trip he took us on to the White Mountains to a basket-making factory, and a place Marjorie wanted to stop, where they made candles that smelled like cranberries or lemon or gingerbread.

Other than that, I’d watched a lot of television that summer. My mother had taught me how to play solitaire, and when that got old, I tackled places in our house that nobody had cleaned in a long time, which was how I’d earned the dollar fifty that was burning a hole in my pocket, for another puzzle book. These days even a kid as weird as I was would do his playing on a Game Boy or a PlayStation, but back then only certain families had Nintendo; we weren’t one of them.

I thought about girls all the time at this point, but there was nothing going on in my life where they were concerned besides thoughts.

I had just turned thirteen. I wanted to know about everything to do with women and their bodies, and what people did when they got together—people of the opposite sex—and what I needed to do so I could get a girlfriend sometime before I turned forty years old. I had many questions about sex, but it was clear my mother was not the person to discuss this with, though she herself brought it up on occasion. In the car, on the way to the store, for instance. Your body is changing, I guess, she said, gripping the wheel.

No comment.

My mother stared straight ahead, as if she was Luke Sky-walker, manning the controls of the X-wing jet. Headed to some other galaxy. The mall.

WHEN WE GOT TO THE STORE, my mother had gone with me to the boys’ section and we’d picked out the pants. Also a pack of underwear.

I guess you’ll need shoes, too, she said, in that tone of voice she always had when we went places now, like this whole thing was a bad movie but since we’d bought our tickets we had to stay till the end.

My old ones are still OK, I said. What I was thinking was, if I got shoes on this trip too, it might be a long time before we came here again, where, if I held off on the shoes, we’d have to come back. Once school started I’d need notebooks and pencils, and a protractor, and a calculator. Later, when I brought up the shoes, and she said, Why didn’t you tell me when we were at the store last time?, I could point out the rest of the items on my list, and she’d give in.

We finished with the clothes part. I’d put the things I picked out in our cart and headed over to the section where they sold the magazines and paperbacks. I started flipping through an issue of Mad, though what I really wanted was to look at the Playboys. They sealed those up in a plastic wrapper.

Now I could see my mother across the rows of merchandise, wheeling our cart through the aisles. Slowly, like a leaf in a slow-moving creek, just drifting. No telling what she might put in the cart, though later I would learn: one of those pillows you put on your bed so you can sit up at night reading. A hand-held battery-operated fan—but not the batteries. A ceramic animal—a hedgehog or something along those lines—with grooved sides where you scattered seeds that you kept moist until, after a while, they sprouted and the animal would be covered with leaves. It’s like a pet, she said, only you don’t have to worry about cleaning out the cage.

Hamster food, I had reminded her. We needed that too.

I WAS ENGROSSED IN AN ISSUE OF Cosmopolitan that had caught my eye—an article called What Women Wish Men Knew That They Don’t—when the man leaned over and spoke to me. He was standing in front of the section right next to the puzzles, which was magazines about knitting and gardening. You wouldn’t think a person who looked the way he did would want to read about these things. He wanted to talk to me.

I wonder if you could give me a hand here, he said.

This was where I looked at him. He was a tall person. You could see the muscles on his neck and the part of his arms that wasn’t covered by his shirt. He had one of those faces where you can tell what the skull would look like with the skin gone, even though the person’s still alive. He was wearing the kind of shirt that workers wear at Pricemart—red, with a name on the pocket. Vinnie—and when I looked at him closer, I saw that his leg was bleeding, to the point where some of the blood had soaked through his pants leg onto his shoe, which was actually more like a slipper.

You’re bleeding, I said.

I fell out a window. He said it the way a person would if all that happened to him was he got a mosquito bite. Maybe this was why, at the time, this didn’t seem like such an odd remark. Or maybe it was that everything seemed so odd back then, this comment in particular didn’t stand out.

We should get help, I told him. I was guessing my mother would not be the best one to ask, but there were many other shoppers here. It felt good, him choosing me, out of everyone. This wasn’t usually how things went.

I wouldn’t want to upset anyone, he said. A lot of people get scared when they see blood. They think they’re going to catch some kind of virus, you know, he said.

I understood what he meant, from an assembly we had back in the spring. This was in the days when all people knew was, don’t touch anybody else’s blood, it could kill you.

You came here with that woman over there, right? he said. He was looking in the direction of my mother, who was standing in the garden section now, looking at a hose. We didn’t have one, but we didn’t have a garden to speak of either.

Good-looking woman, he said.

My mom.

What I wanted to ask is, if you think she’d give me a ride. I’d be careful not to get blood on your seat. If you could take me someplace. She looks like the type of person who would help me, he said.

It may or may not have been a good thing about my mother that this was true.

Where do you want to go? I asked him. I was thinking, they weren’t very considerate to their workers at this store, if when they got injured like this, they had to ask the customers to give them a hand.

Your house?

He said it like a question first, but then he had looked at me like he was a character in The Silver Surfer, with superpowers.

He put a hand on my shoulder, tight.

Frankly, son, I need this to happen.

I looked at him closer then. He did this thing with his jaw that made you know he was in pain, just trying not to show it—clenched down tight, like he was chewing on a nail. The blood on his pants wasn’t that obvious, because they were navy blue. And even though the store was air-conditioned, he was sweating a lot. Now I could see there was a thin trickle of blood coming down the side of his head too, and clotted in his hair.

They had a closeout on baseball caps. Once he’d picked up one of those and put it on his head, you couldn’t see the blood much. He was limping badly, but plenty of people did that. He took a fleece vest off the rack and put it over his red Pricemart shirt. I gathered, from the fact that he pulled off the tag, that he wasn’t planning on paying for it. Maybe they had some kind of policy for employees.

Just a second, he said. There’s one more thing I want to pick up here. Wait here.

YOU NEVER KNEW HOW MY MOTHER was going to react to things. There could be some guy going door-to-door with religious pamphlets, and she’d yell at him to go away, but other times I’d come home from school and there’d be this person sitting on our couch having coffee with her.

This is Mr. Jenkins, she said. He wanted to tell us about an orphanage in Uganda he’s raising money for, where the children only get to eat once a day and they don’t have money to buy pencils. For twelve dollars a month we could sponsor this little boy, Arak. He could be your pen pal. Like a brother.

According to my father, I already had a brother, but we both knew Marjorie’s son didn’t count.

Great, I said. Arak. She wrote out the check. He gave us a photograph—fuzzy, because it was just a photocopy. She put it on the refrigerator.

There was a woman who wandered into our yard wearing a nightgown one time. This person was very old, and she didn’t know where she lived anymore. She kept saying she was looking for her son.

My mother brought her in our house and made her coffee too. I know how confusing things get sometimes, my mother told the woman. We’ll straighten this out for you.

Times like this, my mother took charge, and I liked it, how normal she seemed then. After the coffee, and some toast, we had buckled the old woman into the front seat of our car—in fact, this might have been the last time my mother had driven it until now—and cruised around the neighborhood with her for a long time.

You just let me know if anything looks familiar, Betty, my mother told her.

For once, her slow driving made sense, because a man had spotted us, spotted Betty in the front seat, and waved us over.

We were going crazy trying to find her, he said, when my mother rolled the window down. I’m so grateful to you for taking care of her.

She’s fine, my mother said. We had the nicest visit. I hope you’ll bring her over again.

I like that girl, Betty had said, as the son came around the other side and unbuckled the seat belt. That’s the kind of girl you should have married, Eddie. Not that bitch.

I had studied the man’s face then, just to check. He was certainly not handsome, but he looked like the kind of person who would be nice. For a second I wished there was a way of telling him my mother wasn’t married to anyone anymore. It was just the two of us. He could come over with Betty sometime.

Eddie looked nice, I said, after we drove away. Maybe he’s divorced too. You never know.

MY MOTHER WAS IN THE HARDWARE section when we caught up with her. Now that we’re here, she said, I should pick up lightbulbs.

This was good news. When a lightbulb burned out at our house, more often than not it just stayed that way. Lately, our house had been getting steadily darker. In the kitchen now, there was only one bulb left that still worked, and not a bright one. Sometimes, at night, if you wanted to see something, you had to open the refrigerator just to shine a little light.

I don’t know how we’ll manage to get these into the sockets, she said. I can’t reach those fixtures in the ceiling.

That was when I introduced the bleeding man. Vinnie. I thought the fact that he was tall would be a plus.

My mother, Adele, I said.

I’m Frank, he said.

Not the first time a person wasn’t who you thought they were in this world. Just wearing the wrong shirt, evidently.

You have a good boy here, Adele, he told her. He was kind enough to offer me a ride. Maybe I could repay the favor by giving you a hand with those.

He indicated the lightbulbs.

And anything else you might need done around the house, he said. Not many jobs I can’t handle.

She studied his face then. Even with the hat on, you could see some dried blood on his cheek, but she didn’t seem to notice that part, or maybe if she did, it didn’t seem important.

We went out through the checkout together. He explained to my mother that he was paying for my puzzle book, though he would have to give me an IOU, since at the moment his funds were limited. Evidently he wasn’t mentioning the baseball cap and the fleece vest to the cashier.

In addition to my new clothes and the garden hose, and the pillow and the ceramic hedgehog and the lightbulbs and fan, my mother had picked up one of those plywood paddles, with a ball attached on a piece of elastic, that you try to hit as many times in a row as you can.

I thought I’d get you a treat, Henry, she said, laying the toy on the conveyor belt.

I wasn’t going to bother explaining that I hadn’t played with something like that since I was around six, but Frank spoke up. A boy like this needs a real baseball, he said. Here was the surprising part: he had one in his pocket. Price tag still visible.

I suck at baseball, I told him.

Maybe you used to, he said. He fingered the stitches on the ball and looked at it hard, like what he had in his hand was the whole world.

On the way out, Frank picked up one of those flyers they gave out, featuring that week’s specials. When we got to the car, he spread this out on the backseat. I don’t want to get blood on your upholstery, Adele, he said. If I can call you that.

Other people’s mothers would have asked him a lot of questions probably. Or not taken him in the first place, more likely. My mother just drove. I was wondering if he was going to get into trouble for leaving work that way without telling anyone, but if so, Frank didn’t appear to be worried about it.

Of the three of us, it seemed as if I was the only one who felt concerned, actually. I had a feeling I should be doing something about the situation, but as usual, didn’t know what. And Frank seemed so calm and clear about things, you wanted to go along with him. Even though really, he was going along with us, of course.

I have a sixth sense when it comes to people, he told my mother. I took one look around that store, big as it was, and knew you were the one.

I won’t lie to you, he said. It’s a difficult situation. Many people would not want to have anything to do with me at this point. I’m going on my instincts here that you are a very understanding person.

The world is not an easy place to get along, he said. Sometimes you just need to stop everything, sit down and think. Collect your thoughts. Lie low for a bit.

I looked at my mother then. We were coming down Main Street now, past the post office and the drugstore, the bank, the library. All the old familiar places, though in all the times I’d passed this way before, it was never in the company of anyone like Frank. He was pointing out to my mother now that it sounded as if the rotors on her brakes might be a little thin. If he could get his hands on a few tools, he’d like to take a look at that for her, he said.

In the seat next to her, I studied my mother’s face, to see if her expression changed, when Frank said these things. I could feel my heart beating, and a tightness in my chest—not fear exactly, but something close, though oddly pleasurable. I had it when my father took Richard and the baby and me, and Marjorie, to Disney World, and we got into our seats on the Space Mountain ride—all of us but Marjorie and the baby. Partly I wanted to get out before the ride started, but then they turned out the lights and this music started and Richard had poked me and said, If you have to barf, just do it in the other direction.

Today is my lucky day, Frank said. Yours too, maybe.

I knew right then, things were about to change. We were headed into Space Mountain now, into a dark place where the ground might give way, and you wouldn’t even be able to tell anymore where this car was taking you. We might come back. We might not.

If this had occurred to my mother, she didn’t let on. She just held the wheel and stared straight ahead same as before, all the way home.


WHERE WE LIVED THEN—THE TOWN OF Holton Mills, New Hampshire—was the kind of place where people know each other’s business. They’d notice if you left your grass too long between one lawn mowing and the next, and if you painted your house some color besides white, they might not say anything to your face, but they’d talk about it. Where my mother was the kind of person who just wanted to be left alone. There had been a time when she loved being up on a stage, with everybody watching her perform, but at this point, my mother’s goal was to be invisible, or as close as she could get.

One of the things she said she liked about our house was where it sat, at the end of the street, with no other houses beyond us and a big field in back, opening onto nothing but woods. Cars hardly ever came by, except on those occasions where someone missed the place they meant to go and had to turn around. Other than people like the man raising money for the orphanage, and the occasional religious types, or someone with a petition, hardly anyone ever came to see us, which to my mother was good news.

It used to be different. We used to visit people’s houses sometimes and invite people to ours. But by this point, my mother was down to basically one friend, and even that one hardly ever came by anymore. Evelyn.

MY MOTHER AND EVELYN MET UP around the time my father left, when my mother had this idea to start a creative movement class for children at our house—the sort of activity it would have been hard to picture her getting into, later. She actually did things like put up flyers around town and buy an ad in the local paper. The idea was, mothers would come over with their children, and my mother would put on music, and lay out things like scarves and ribbons, and everyone would dance around. When it was over, they’d all have a snack. And if she got enough customers, she wouldn’t have to worry about going out into the world and getting a more normal type of job, which wasn’t her style.

She went to a lot of effort setting things up for this. She sewed little mats for everyone, and cleared out all the living room furniture, which wasn’t all that much to start with, and she bought a rug for the floor that was supposed to be someone’s wall-to-wall carpet only they hadn’t paid.

I was pretty young at the time, but I remember the morning of the first class, she lit candles to put around the room, and she baked cookies—a health food kind, with whole wheat flour and honey instead of sugar. I didn’t want to be in the class, so she told me I could be the one to work the record player and keep an eye on the younger children, if she was busy with one of the older ones, and later, I’d serve the snack. We had a dry run, the morning of her first class, where she showed me what to do and reminded me, if anyone needed to go to the bathroom, to help the little kids with things like fastening their pants after.

Then it was the time her customers were supposed to start showing up. Then it was past the time, and still nobody.

Maybe half an hour after the class was supposed to begin, this woman arrived with a boy

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  • (3/5)
    This was a gentle love story narrated by Adele's thirteen-year-old son who observes the budding romance between his fragile mother and an escaped convict over a Labor Day weekend. The thing I found most frustrating was the lack of quotation marks which made the book hard to follow at times, but I did like Henry's voice.
  • (3/5)
    This story is told through the eyes of 13-year-old Henry about his hermit mom Adele and escaped convict Frank. This is a sad story and also a love story. Frank spends 6 days with Henry and Adele and changes their lives forever. This was a quick read, barely over 200 pages. I liked Frank and Adele together yet she and Henry were making me mad that they didn't turn Frank in. This book has a sweet ending and I did enjoy learning about the different characters.
  • (4/5)
    As an adult, Henry tells his story beginning at the age of 13. Henry lives with his divorced mom and barely tolerates his visits with his father and his new family. Trying to figure life out as he's muddling through adolescence, he meets a man in need of help during a trip to the grocery store with his mom. His mother decides to help the man out and life then becomes even more difficult for Henry to figure out.This book carried an off kilter vibe for me, but I think that was part of the charm. Explaining details about it to someone else makes it sound a little preposterous, but I was too drawn into the characters to even care. What made the book for me was hearing it from Henry's perspective. I thought that was done very well and totally believable.This was my first encounter with Joyce Maynard, and I have already acquired another one (Where Love Goes) since reading this book. I'm looking forward to reading her work again. I like her style.Originally posted on: Thoughts of Joy
  • (5/5)
    This is our final book for the library book discussion group and I loved it. It's a very odd love story and coming of age story - how Maynard conceived this book would be interesting. Frank is an escaped convict who spends Labor Day weekend with Adele and her 13 year old son Henry. Needless to say, Frank was not invited. Adele and Henry go by their own rules - both misfits - and Maynard makes these qualities shining gifts - allowing the three of them to connect in almost unimaginable ways. It's a touching tale of what it means to be human
  • (5/5)
    I've had this novel on my 'to-be-read' shelf for quite a while. I'm glad I finally got a chance to read it. I have always known that Joyce Maynard was a talented author and 'Labor Day' did not disappoint. It held my interest from the start and I just went along with the story. After all, it is fiction!As the story progressed, I found myself cheering for Frank even though he was a felon. Who could not love a felon when he teaches a 13-year-old boy how to make a peach pie? I hope this scene is as good in the movie as it was in the book!Maynard's characters are well-developed, they draw you in and make you like them. I am looking forward to reading more of her works.
  • (2/5)
    This is a 2.67 review.

    My feelings are very mixed about Joyce Maynard's Labor Day. I partially liked it; I partially didn't. Labor Day primarily takes place in the 1970's. Henry is the 13 year old narrator describing a pivotal Labor Day weekend.

    While in a discount store with his damaged agoraphobic mother, Adele, an escaped convict named Frank approaches Henry asking him for a place to lie low. Frank's injured with a broken leg. Adele and Henry sneak him out with no questions asked. Thus begins a weekend where Henry gains self-confidence and Adele and Frank fall in love.

    I am very picky about my love stories. I hate overly mushy, Harlequin types, and utterly stupid. The love story between Adele and Frank wasn't any of these but it was highly improbable. I know that Frank was not a true bad guy, just a victim of circumstance. However, he was still a convict and still very sketchy. Frank just kind of imposed himself in their lives offering life lessons. That just didn't sit right with me.

    Perhaps because it was narrated from Henry's point of view, that I felt this way about Frank. It sure helped with me feeling sympathetic toward Henry and hiss feelings of abandonment toward Adele and Frank. It was also understandable on how Eleanor was influential on his thoughts regarding Frank trying to steal Adele away from Henry.

    I felt that there were two brainwashing going on. Eleanor on Henry. She manipulating him as seeing Frank's good deeds as steps for stealing Adele. Eleanor was an immoral opportunist and Henry was naïve enough not to see it. Frank brainwashed Adele. I know this is the minority but when a man showers a fragile woman with enough attention, she'll be malleable. Frank did need a place to stay.

    I think I liked the idea of Labor Day than the actual execution. Joyce Maynard's writing was very good. I liked that the characters had tragic pasts. Maynard is effective in making the mundane interesting.
  • (5/5)
    Book Description:
    As the end of summer approaches and a long, hot Labor Day weekend looms, the life of lonely thirteen-year-old Henry Wheeler is irrevocably changed when he and his emotionally fragile mother show kindness to a stranger with a terrible secret. Now a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, Labor Day is a poignant story of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery.

    Labor Day is a very touching and page turning story with very unforgettable characters. Never read Joyce Maynard before but I will be seeking out some of her other novels!
  • (3/5)
    Read from February 05 to 06, 2014I read this because of the movie trailer. I had little interest before the trailer came out, but they made it look riveting. Because of the trailer I expected a love story...you know, these two people coming together against all odds. There is some of that here, but more than anything this is a coming-of-story.The story of the fated Labor Day weekend is told to us as many coming-of-age stories are -- Henry, Adele's son, is older and wiser and he is recounting to us this life-changing weekend when he was 13. Henry and Adele have a close relationship, she's divorced from his father and Henry doesn't have many friends. Adele doesn't leave the house often. Then one day they go to the store and end up bringing an escaped convict home with them. Frank is a nice fellow and needs a place to lay low while they're looking for him. Adele is a woman that follows her gut more than her head so she agrees. So while there is a love story, we only get the part seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy. It isn't at all the same as a LOVE story, but I didn't hate it. Once I got over the initial surprise, I liked the story (I do love a good coming-of-age tale). The ebook formatting was annoying though -- if a paragraph is starting, it should be MORE indented than it was here. Plus there were no quotation marks which I find incredibly annoying...what is it with that choice? I guess it's supposed to say something to me about memory and style, but it's incredibly annoying.
  • (4/5)
    Joyce Maynard presents an inside view of life from the mind of an adolescent boy. He is on the verge of so many things yet not quite there. He stills sees much of life simplistically but is asute enough to know he must keep his mother's slipping grip on reality a secret from his divorced father. When summer brings a new man into his and his mother's lives there are new secrets to keep: from the police, his father and the neighbors. There are also new pleasures: attention from a male figure, seeing his mother grower more confident, and being attracted and repelled by a young girl. We see his immediate future quite clearly but he does not yet have the wisdom and experience to interpret what he sees. His innocence is beautiful and heart-breaking.
  • (4/5)
    From My Blog...Thirteen-year-old Henry and his mother Adele meet Frank Chambers in Pricemart and bring him back to their home, beginning 6 days that change the course of several lives in the novel Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. Henry narrates the story giving the reader insights into his life prior to meeting Frank, the life changing six days of Labor Day weekend of his 13th year and then Henry jumps forward in time eventually bringing the reader to present day, two decades later with the lessons he has learned and . The characters are richly detailed from Henry’s eccentric and possibly unbalanced mother Adele, his remarried father Richard, his step-mother Marjorie, his half-sister Chloe, Eleanor, and naturally Frank. While the story line may appear far-fetched, it is after all a story and quite a loving, heart-warming and endearing one. Frank worked his way into my heart, even if he was an escaped convict. Maynard takes the reader into the life of a thirteen-year-old boy living in Holton Mills, New Hampshire and shares what has to be one of the most circumstantially bizarre yet wonderfully profound holiday weekends I have ever read about. Labor Day is a quick read filled with hope, family and love and one I enjoyed and would recommend to others looking for a light yet beautiful novel of how one act could impact the lives of so many people.
  • (5/5)
    In the beginning I wasn't sure if I was going to like this one or not, but after only a couple chapters in, I was hooked. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard is a book that I couldn't wait to pick up before I went to bed to see what was happening next. It was not only a poignant coming-of-age story of a young boy, it also portrayed his mother who was struggling with her own demons as well. I found myself wanting to hug this boy and it really made me think about how sometimes the things we think we know about a person can be totally off. It is a story about love and the strange ways it can be found.
    I love the way the book ended as well. Instead of being tragic like I actually expected, it instead made me feel good and showed that sometimes good things come out of bad situations. It shows the power of love as well as the power of forgiveness. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a book that makes you smile as you close the back cover.
  • (4/5)
    An ordinary day before the Labor Day long weekend becomes something extraordinary as Henry and his mother end up meeting an injured stranger at the store. The events that unfold over the short couple of days will forever change both of their lives. A story about love, being in love, and being in love with love is all part of Maynard's novel. A story about a young boy coming to understand how love can destroy, but also how love can heal. There was definitely a point in the book where I was wondering where the book was going and was worried that it was becoming stagnant, but the ending was enough to leave me with a smile on my face. An enjoyable story with a resolution that provides both comfort and closure.
  • (3/5)
    Labor Day is a strangely realistic, while still being rather out of the ordinary, story of a boy and his somewhat distorted family. The whole story revolves around a teenage boy names Henry, his slightly insane mother Adele, and a stranger named Frank. The story is told through the main character Henry as he deals with all of the moral and problematic situations that arise from first his parent’s separation, then the arrival of Frank into Henry's life and home. The story is simple yet very dynamic and delves into some serious life issues. It's vaguely reminiscent of the childhood story part of the book "Choke". Henry's mom isn't quite as "out there" but it has the same feel to it. I enjoyed the book it kept me interested for the most part. It's an easy read so if you have a free afternoon I would recommend checking it out.
  • (5/5)
    I just finished this book in a marathon of reading. Could not put it down, the characters (and their flaws) are compelling. Telling the story through the eyes of a pre-teen boy lent the narrative a sense of innocence that was disarming. I think Ms. Maynard has a real talent for searing right to the souls of her characters. Very enjoyable read.
  • (3/5)
    Have you ever done a double take? The answer is probably yes. Labor Day was what I like to refer to as a reading double take. Meaning, I would read something. Stop. And my response was usually, “Wtf? Did I read that correctly?”I’m going to be very honest here. I don’t really know what to make of Labor Day. I waited a few days to write the review in the hopes that I’d be able to nail down my exacts thoughts, but I’m still stumped. This is a rare occurrence for me and I don’t like it. Anyway, on to the review.The writing was good. The perspective was odd and unexpected. The entire story is told from Henry’s point of view and he’s 13 years old when the book starts. I thought that was a strange choice given the subject matter (love, sex and treachery), but it did make Labor Day stand out in my mind.The characters were fairly unique. I liked Henry, but he was way more obsessed with sex than what I thought was normal. I did not like his mom, Adele. I thought she could’ve and should’ve been much stronger for her son and a better example. When you look at it from a black or white perspective (which a lot of people do when kids are involved), then she never should have allowed an escaped convict into her house. She definitely should not have made it seem like what was going on was okay(aka harboring a fugitive).When it comes down to it, I liked Labor Day. I just couldn’t get over how strange it was. It’s definitely not a normal, run of the mill storyline. It is without a doubt a coming of age story that mainly focus on the sexual aspects of growing up. So the big question, would I recommend it? Alas, I would not recommend Labor Day (except maybe on a case-by-case basis).For more reviews, check out reviewsinapinch.wordpress.com today!
  • (5/5)
    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. 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. 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.
  • (4/5)
    Really good, surprisingly so, book. I have never read Joyce Maynard before, but may pick up another of her books after reading this. Seeing the events that transpired through Henry's eyes made the book all that much more interesting. Had Maynard followed the "typical" love story line this would not have had the emotional impact that it did. Well done.
  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. As 13-year-old Henry lived through six days that changed how he saw his family and himself, I became drawn into the characters, even the ones I didn't want to like. The author was adept at creating a sense of building tension; I think the structure of narrating day by day through the extended Labor Day weekend added to this: when would it end? I'm not sure I want to see the movie, even though I read it because I saw the movie advertised. I think it's a lovely story as it is.
  • (4/5)
    This one was on my books to read before movie comes out list.

    "But there was something about the way Frank fed my mother that made the whole thing almost beautiful, like he was a jeweler or a scientist, or one of those old Japanese men who work all day on a single bonsai." What a great image! The story takes place over 6 days then jumps ahead in the last few pages 18 years later.

    Hope the movie does not ruin what the author has created. I will say from the previews I like the casting with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin (sp)

  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is the story of thirteen year old Henry and the few days of the labor day holiday that changed his and his mothers life forever when an escaped convict enters their lives. What could be a really contrived mess was told with deep emotional depth, I could feel Henry's loneliness and his mothers depression. The jealously and joy were genuine, I was so impressed with Maynard's skill at expressing the human condition. Labor Day was a book I couldn't put down and one I would easily recommend.
  • (5/5)
    When I started reading "Labor Day", I quickly began preparing for the worst possible outcomes for the characters. Adele, an unstable mother, and her 13-year-old son Henry willingly take in an escaped murdered. How can this possibly end well? As the story unfolded, I was forced to reconsider my assumptions. Adele was not a bad mother; just doing the best that she could with the tragic hand she had been dealt. Frank was not a brutal murderer; rather a lost soul trying to make his way in a world gone awry. Joyce Maynard tells a beautiful story of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. I enjoyed and was moved by this novel.
  • (3/5)
    I give this 3 1/2 stars. I found this novel on a list of novels you should read before they become movies. I think this novel will translate to the movie version nicely, if casted and adapted properly.

    Labor Day is a rather simple story that explores rather complicated emotions. It is the story of Henry, an isolated teenaged misfit, his loving but odd relationship with his hermit of a mother with whom he lives, and his distant relationship with his remarried father. It is the story of the stranger that spends an extended holiday weekend with Henry and his mother and changes both their lives forever.

    I did enjoy this story, although I felt in parts that it was a little too descriptive and repetitive. It is a good fable about how instincts are sometimes more important than facts, and how easy it is to make a mistake that can affect not only your life but those around you.
  • (3/5)
    Quite a readable, pleasant story, perhaps really a Young Adult book. I didn't strongly engage with the character of the boy who narrates it.. The escaped criminal was painted as "too good to be true" and I thought that detracted from the story. My first Joyce Maynard book - and will probably be my last because I don't have that much reading time left and I'd rather read books which are closer to my core interests.
  • (4/5)
    Labor Day by Joyce Maynard was such a slow read for me. This coming of age tale, about a boy Henry and the pain of adolescence, was sad, depressing and boring to me. The unstable mother Adele and the escaped convict Frank fall desperately in love and seem to only see each other throughout most of the book. Although, you cannot help but fall in love with Frank too. Frank is a kind, gentle man that teaches Henry many life lessons and skills during his short stay. Henry sees how happy his crazy mother has become since Frank has come into their lives. He is relieved but jealous at the same time. The pressure that his mother has put upon him has been such a heavy load, but he fears that Frank will take her away from him.Even though the tale was not one of my favorites, the characters were believable, as well as the story. I think my favorite part of the book is how it ends. The author does not leave us with a fairy tail happy ever after. I appreciated the honesty of the story and was satisfied with the outcome.Overall the book was well written and easy to read. I would definitely suggest this book to others.
  • (4/5)
    I soo longed for this to be a romance. After I saw this book featured on Buzzfeed's list of books getting turned into movies and saw the movie trailer, I knew I had to read it. The trailer with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin looked beautiful and haunting and romantic. Which is what the book is, only... less on the romance.The story is told through the eyes of thirteen year old Henry Wheeler, and explores one life changing labor day weekend that he spent with his mother and an escaped convict. He comes into their life by accident, but it appears that the escaped convict, Frank, is anything but what the newspapers make him out to be. He is thoughtful, handy, and considerate, and quickly steals Henry's fragile mother's heart.This is more of a coming of age story then a romance, and it won't end the way you expect it to. But that's no reason for you not to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I can't wait to see the movie!
  • (4/5)
    Labor Day by Joyce Maynard; (4*)I found Labor Day to be a very well written book. It illustrated the danger of writing people off because of past mistakes or because they have been put into a particular box. I thought the author did a great job of presenting this complex situation to us through the eyes of a youthful boy named Henry. Henry has both misgivings and love for his mother which color his response to this unknown man's entrance into their lives. It is a heart rendering story about family dynamics. A boy's coming of age, a mother's depression, a stepfamily and a convict. They are all thrown together, making for a touching read. I was captivated from the start.
  • (3/5)
    Over a long, Labor Day weekend, Henry and his mother, Adele, unecpectedly harbor a fugitive. Henry's mother has basically shut herself off from the world, leaving Henry to help his mother stock-pile food and generally help take care of household responsibilities and his mother. When the escaped convict comes into the home, Adele and Frank quickly develop romantic feelings towards each other. The weekend progresses with Henry struggling with his feelings of jealousy and resentment towards Frank and feelings of gratitude for bringing his mother back into the "real world". Will the police find Frank? Will they run off together and be a real family? Or will Henry turn Frank in thinking that they're going to leave him behind. This book kept my interest but I found it very unbelievable how quickly Frank and Adele fell in love.
  • (3/5)
    The events of Labor Day weekend change the course of the lives of a 13 yr old boy and his single mother when they decide to help a man with a tragic past.
  • (4/5)
    Labor Day by Joyce MaynardWilliam Morrow, 2009Fiction; 244 pgsYears ago, I read The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard, which dealt with the 9/11 terror attack. It was a story about grief and learning to move on, and it was one that touched my heart. Joyce Maynard is one of those authors I always meant to return to, but never managed to. Until now. In part, that is due to the recent release of the movie. I wanted to see the movie, but, like so many others, had this burning desire to read the book first.Labor Day takes place in Holton Hills, New Hampshire. For the young narrator and his mother, life is mostly about getting through each day. Henry is thirteen years old, and in many ways typical. He has wet dreams and is fascinated by the opposite sex, but is also confused by his feelings and thoughts. He loves his mother fiercely, however, has spent most of his life trying to make her happy. She's always so sad and doesn't have much interest in life outside her own house. She rarely goes out, and does what she can to avoid it as often as possible. His mother, Adele, hadn't always been depressed. She once had been a dancer, full of dreams and of life. He loved listening to his mother's stories about her younger days. Henry has no friends and escapes often in books and television. His mother and father divorced years before, his father remarrying and starting a new family. The weekend before school is to start, Labor Day weekend, on a rare excursion to the store, Henry and his mother are approached by a man looking for a ride, preferably to their house where he can tend to his wounds and clean himself up. Instinctively trusting the man, they allow him to come home with them. Frank is a convicted murderer who has just escaped from custody. He is upfront about who he is and his intentions, promising he means Adele and Henry no harm.The novel takes place over the course of a week, the week in which Frank is with the family. Frank reawakens something long lost in both Henry and Adele, and none of their lives will be the same after.There is nothing rushed about this novel. At least in terms of the writing or story. There is great sadness in the novel, and my heart ached for Henry and his mother, Adele. Perhaps because of what I do for a living, I was less inclined to buy Frank's story at face value. I wanted to trust him and like him just as Adele and Henry did, but I was always wary of him. It is clear that Adele is deeply troubled. What kind of mother brings a convicted murderer into her home willingly? The way Maynard built her characters and her story, I almost believed it could happen. But only just almost.I loved Maynard's writing in The Usual Rules and I love it in Labor Day. I also liked the care she took in crafting her characters, how real they became as I read the novel, and how much reflection went into their thoughts and actions. Henry, as the narrator, of course, is at the heart of the novel and he definitely stole mine. I could feel is uncertainty and frustration throughout the novel, and also his joy at having someone take such an interest in him--and not having to care for his mother for a short while. What a relief that must have been.After reading the book, I was excited about seeing the movie. Kate Winslet was a wonderful choice to play Adele. She was very believable as a woman suffering from Depression and social anxiety. I enjoyed the movie for the most part. The pacing seemed in line with the book. It isn't a fast paced story, even given the subject matter. It's less a suspense novel/movie as it is a more character driven one. That isn't to say there is no suspense, however. There's always that concern that Frank's hiding place will be discovered.I liked that the movie built in more a sense of menace at the beginning of the film, making it more believable that Adele and Henry would take someone like Frank home. There's an implied threat that I did not get from Frank's character in the book. What I did not like about the movie, however, were the flashback scenes. Frank's story is mostly told in flashbacks, and for some reason, the movie makers decided to break those flashbacks into fragments, not necessarily revealing those fragments in order. It made it confusing, even to someone who had read the book before hand. I also felt not enough emphasis was given to Adele's past, the reason she was the way she was. It's mentioned in the movie, but it seemed more like an after thought.I am still glad I went to see the film, and even more so that I read the book.
  • (3/5)
    This is my first Joyce Maynard book. The synopsis sounded intriguing. The story of Adele is a sad one, indeed. But Frank's presence seems to bring some life back to her. She needed love and affection. She needed positive attention. Thirteen-year-old Henry has been the "man" of the house for so long, yet he can't make his mother happy. Not in the way that Frank can.

    Frank isn't really as awful as the media portrays him to be. He's a human being with flaws and still possesses some good qualities.

    The story is sad while still clinging to hope and love. It is generously insightful, sharing the why's of Adele's unhappiness and depression. While Joyce is a fair storyteller, this book is not one that I would re-read.