Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
William Morrow | Paperback, 244 pages
Publication Date: July 27th, 2009
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
When Buzzfeed released a list of 16 Books to Read Before They Hit Theatres This Year, I drove like a madwoman to my bookstore. Readily, I picked up a couple in that list: this one, and the hefty, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin.
It didn’t take very long for me to get sucked into the hermitic lives of Adele and her son, Henry. It was a story of a mother’s ongoing struggle with depression and the coming of age story of a boy. Together, they both find what they needed when they least expect it. So for those few days during the Labor Day weekend, a glimpse into completeness that only a husband and father could provide – albeit, it’s through an injured escaped convict.
Henry and his mother rarely leave their house. The groceries are done in a huge shopping spree to avoid having to go regularly. Henry attends to the chores that would require some interaction with other people because Adele, his mother, is agoraphobic. She gets the shakes whenever she’s around people. On that day before the Labor Day weekend, an escaped convict accosted Henry. Without much ado or fanfare, Henry and his mother became hostages.
Henry lent a gentle yet emotional voice in this book. It was everything you would expect for a then, a thirteen-year-old. The changes he and his mother went through on those short days were all the ways life changing. He’d never guessed how powerful those six days meant. In Frank, he saw a more involved father – the reason for the appearance of his mother’s elusive and rare smiles. For once, her happiness does not depend on him. For once, he could be a teenager on the cusp of discovering himself.
Adele has gone through so many deaths; infants that she’d lost either through childbirth or during pregnancy. She’s a sensitive person who takes everything to heart. So when she lost her children consecutively, she had difficulties trying to live again. I think her ex-husband put it very well when he said she felt too much and that she was in love with love itself. And while I rarely saw deep emotions in her throughout the book, Henry’s words told so much about his mother.
Frank was – it’s hard to describe Frank. I think I fell in love with the romance between him and Adele. He was the ideal, you know? He was caring, loving, and thoughtful. He made baking pies sexy. It’s like the clay pot making in Ghost: flirtatious and sensual. Their short love affair was so heady with sexual overtones.
In summary, this was my first Joyce Maynard but I hoped to read more of her work. Poignant story telling and romantic, Labor Day is one of those novels that will leave you unsatisfied; not because it was poorly written but because the story needs to keep going. I almost wished this book was told in Adele’s perspective instead of Henry’s just because I wanted to be privy to hers’ and Frank’s bedroom conversations.