Here is part of our little book club group. We met to talk about Joyce Maynard’s new book called Labor Day. We all wanted to read the book before we go together and see the movie at the end of this month. I always make it a rule of mine to read the book before seeing the movie. This blog post will be a bit different because I am going to post varying opinions, thoughts and views of the same book. And let me tell you….we had some different ideas about this book. It is interesting to note that before we sat down to discuss the book, everyone emailed their own book reviews to me. This way our thoughts were pure and uninfluenced by the others in the group.
So let’s get down to the good, the bad and the ugly of this book:
The story is told through the 13 year-old character, Henry. We get no other perspective, and several of us wanted to get into the head of Frank and Adele ….to understand them in a better sense. However, the author only wanted us to see the story unfold through Henry’s eyes. We must trust the author even if we don’t always like their methods.
Henry and mother, Adele, live together in a reclusive way. Henry’s parents divorced years earlier when Adele seemed to slip into a fragile state seeming unaware and afraid of the world around her. Henry is left to raise himself and take care of his mother….not an easy thing for any child. Henry does see his father weekly during rather uncomfortable dinners with his dad’s new family. He keeps things to himself about the state of affairs on the home front. Henry is quite adept at taking care of himself and his mother. They have slipped into a comfortable albeit unusual rhythm for mother and son. The two go out monthly to stock up on non-perishables, and it is on one of these trips that Frank enters their life. Frank approaches Henry at the store….he is bleeding and begging for Henry to ask his mother to take him home…their home. He is quite charismatic and creepy in this request. Adele does not hesitant in granting Frank his request.
Here is the part in the story where the mother in us all got the better of us. We could not understand how a mother could willingly put her son in danger and welcome this suspicious stranger into their home. She gives Frank power…power over them all with seemingly no regard for her son. We did not like that and wanted her to protect Henry if not herself. She did not.
This is when one of us spoke up and said: “But this is a love story. Adele values love above all….she is blinded by it, and it [love] makes people do crazy things.” Good point. So for the time being , we accept Adele’s poor parenting decision to let this escaped criminal into her home. Yes, we learn that he has just escaped from prison and is being hunted by the authorities. Adele willingly gives him a place to hide. This is where the love story begins and over the span of six days we see the characters slowly develop. Too slowly for some of us and just right for others.
Yet it is still hard to get past the fact that this emotionally detached woman is so willing to trust this man with all her heart…she even begins to smile and open up in his presence. They even have sex…GASP! She is oblivious to Henry….or at least that is the way it reads since we are only exposed to Henry’s thoughts.
The ending was a bit predictable, and yet most of us felt it was the “best” ending. We are really looking forward to the movie because we feel that the movie will give us insight to the other characters….was Frank really in love with Adele? Was Adele that self-centered? Was his father that much of coward to run away when things got tough? Henry was a strong, likeable character and I personally loved him. His honesty, his strength, and his loyalty. He was truly unselfish at a time in one’s life when it is not only OK to be selfish, but expected. We will report back to you after viewing the movie to give yet more of our input.