Thursday, July 19, 2012

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

So here was a book that I had never heard of before, but read the blurb and it sounded interesting so I went ahead and picked it up. And then it sat on my shelves for about a year as so many books do :/ Poor neglected books, I promise I'll read you all with least I'll try. Fast forward a year and I've finally read this one and I can solidly put it in the "it was good" column. It didn't blow me away or change my life. It didn't disgust me and make me want to throw it against the wall, but it was a solidly good novel. And sometimes that's just perfect.

You have to suspend disbelief for this one to work. A mother and her son take in an escaped convict while grocery shopping one day and welcome him into their home and they start to form this bizarre life together that works for some reason fairly quickly. It's easy to dismiss this book and say "well that would never happen!" but that's part of the intrigue of this's different. What if this did happen to these two interesting characters - this bohemian, middle aged mother who's slowly become more and more agoraphobic over the years and her son who's beginning to come of age and learning how the world works?

The answer to that question makes for a really compelling book told from the eyes of Henry over Labor Day weekend. Up until now, Henry's life has consisted of taking care of or at least appeasing his mother who dances beautifully at home alone yet shuts herself away from the world and making sure things go smoothly when his father asks how she's doing. Henry's world is changing too as his body changes and he has a sexual awakening. Henry's mother is finding companionship at the same time through Frank, the convict that they've welcomed into their home and is learning to find peace and love in human contact again. But of course the question is, how long can this last as the small town they live in searches for Frank.

I love coming of age stories. Anyone who knows me knows that, so I was excited to read this book that added an extra dimension to that. A story that focused not just on Henry's coming of age, but on the coming of age of another generation too. We often don't think about that, but this book shows us that we "come of age" at different times in our life...not just at puberty. We're constantly adjusting to new periods in our life...a lesson I learn more and more the older I get. I think that's what I appreciated most about Maynard's book. Looking forward to reading more of hers in the future!

Here's a question for you so that you can add to my wishlist! What's your FAVORITE Coming of Age novel?


Debi said...

Tough question! But you know what book immediately popped to mind? Sonny's House of Spies, which I know you already read. Love that little gem.

This book sounds like one I'd really enjoy. Sometimes I have a hard time with a book that pushes the boundaries of belief, but at the same time I try to remember there are few human actions or reactions that are truly UNbelievable. Sure it may go against the way 99.9% of the population might react, but that .1% still deserves to have their story told, right?

Bellezza said...

Sadly, Chris, I'm not very original in answering your question. I think my favorite coming of age novel would have to be Catcher in The Rye (if not Wrinkle in Time, if you can call that such a novel)...I loved the idea presented the last time I read it that Holden's not necessarily crazy; it's all the people around him who are. Such is the joy of book clubs, where one can express opinions which are totally new to me.

As for Joyce Maynard, I've not read anything by her, but I'm intrigued by the idea that one has to suspend one's disbelief...I love novels like that!

Bookfool said...

In general, I'm not a fan of "coming of age" but Catcher in the Rye is probably my favorite, too. However . . . A Good American by Alex George is a recent favorite. Have you read it?

I haven't read Joyce Maynard at all. I'm thinking this one comes highly recommended but I'm not sure if it's the Maynard title everyone gushed about in my book group or not. I should take notes. :)