Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review - Labor Day: A Novel by Joyce Maynard

Title: Labor Day: A Novel
Author: Joyce Maynard   
Year: 2009
Page: 256  
Genre: Fiction 

New to me author? Yes  
Read this author again? Maybe 

Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library (Thank you inter-library loan! My library doesn't have it)

Summary (from  
In her sixth novel, Maynard (To Die For) tells the story of a long weekend and its repercussions through the eyes of a then 13-year-old boy, Henry, who lives with his divorced mother, Adele. On Labor Day weekend, Henry manages to coax his mother, who rarely goes out, into a trip to PriceMart, where they run into Frank, who intimidates them into giving him a ride. Frank, it turns out, is an escaped convict looking for a place to hide. He holds Adele and Henry hostage in their home, an experience that changes all of them forever, whether it's Frank tying Adele to the kitchen chair with her silk scarves and lovingly feeding her or teaching the awkward, unathletic Henry how to throw a baseball. The bizarre situation encompasses Henry's budding adolescence, the awakening of his sexuality and his fear of being abandoned by his mother and Frank, who are falling in love and planning to run away together. Maynard's prose is beautiful and her characters winningly complicated, with no neat tie-ups in the end. A sometimes painful tale, but captivating and surprisingly moving.

First Sentence:  
It was just the two of us, my mother and me, after my father left.

Why did I pick this book?
Tales of Whimsy said "this book hurts but it hurts good." - I love a sad story, so how can I resist? Btw, if you haven't been over to her blog, you should pay a visit! I love her reviewing format :)

My thoughts:
  • I really like the cover of the book. I think it portrayed the story really well. 
  • The book wasn't as sad as I thought it'd be and the plot was a bit simplistic and predictable for me. I have to remember this is "Labor Day: A Novel" (and not a thriller...) so it's more about the characters than plot (to me anyway). For some reasons, it reminds me of T-Bag from Prison Break but I think T-Bag was a more complex / multi-dimentional character, and also sadder... 
  • The book is told from a teenage boy's perspective. Since I don't have a son or any brothers, I still think his voice was quite authentic
  •  Cooking was mentioned a bit in this book - it may be my favorite part :)
  • The author also has a different writing style - for all dialog, there is no quotation mark, and took a little getting used to (see 2nd and 3rd quote for examples - I didn't quote them for this reason. I just liked the insights given)


Some people make all these explanations first when they give you the answer to a question that might not reflect so well on them (a question like, where do you work, and the answer is McDonald's, only first they say something like I'm really an action or I'm actually applying to medical school soon. (p20)

What makes you think that person you never even met is any worse off than us? I asked her.
Because I have you, she said. Marie doesn't. (p46)

One thing he would tell me, though, he said, had to do with babies. Not that he was any kind of expert, but for a brief while, long ago, he had cared for his son, and that experience more than any other had taught him the importance of following your instincts. Tuning in to the situation with all your five senses, and your body, not your brain. A baby cries in the night, and you go pick him up. Maybe he's screaming so hard his face is the color of a radish, or he's gasping for breath, he's got himself so worked up. What are you going to do, take a book off the shelf, and read what some expert has to say? p66

Rating:  3 Stars

Have you read this book? 
If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!
100+ Reading 


  1. I'm so glad you tried it and so sorry you didn't love it. Thanks for the shout out :)

  2. I haven't heard of this book before, but I think it's a book I would enjoy. I will have to add it to my wishlist. The story seems new and interesting. I love the cover.

  3. @Juju - please don't be sorry! :) I am trying expand my reading genre, so will bound to find something I don't like quite as much, but the journey is fun. I have found some unexpected gems (like The Help and The Hunger Games). Reading is so subjective but that's the fun part that everyone sees things differently!

    @Jennifer - Read Juju's reviews too (link in the post under Why Did I Pick This Book). I guess I am so used to reading murder/mystery/thrillers that I am always after some surprising twists... but I have to remember that not all books need to have twists :)