Book Review: Labor Day

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Be warned there may be SPOILERS in this post.  I never know what people consider “spoilers” so I just cover myself by saying, if you want to know absolutely nothing until you’ve read the book, then don’t read this post. 

I should start off by saying this is not my typical genre of literature to read but I saw a trailer for the movie released a few months ago starring Kate Winslet (a personal favorite of mine) and I just had to read it.  I will eventually see the film but I always read the book before watching the adaptation of something.  I usually read fantasy novels such as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.  I don’t particularly care for regular fiction unless it is written in an historical context but here I was, reading Labor Day and I found myself unable to put it down.  Joyce Maynard has a peculiar writing style in this book.  I have not read anything else by her so I cannot say if that is how she writes or if she did this specifically for this work but there were no quotation marks in the entire novel.  At times this almost drove me mad, having to reread a paragraph over to figure out if something was the thought of the thirteen-year old narrator or a continuing quote but I got used to it after a while.  

Punctuation aside, I could not put the book down, not because the writing kept my interests up but because the plot did.  The general premise for the book is an escaped convict who comes to stay at the house of a thirteen-year old boy and his reclusive mother.  For the majority of the time you are waiting for Frank (the convict) to either be discovered and arrested or for him to run away with Adele and Henry but more than that, you wait about half the book just to find out what he was in prison for.  You know it’s bad, but you don’t know how bad.  You know he killed someone but from the moment you meet him, you like him and can’t believe he’d hurt anyone so you want to know the circumstances.  This is what keep the pages turning and this was why I could not put the book down. 

Even after your questions are answered regarding Frank’s crime, you are still trying to find out how the young Henry will react in the next chapter.  He is an adolescent teenager and as we all know they can be emotionally unstable.  He comes from a broken family and begins to convince himself that his mother and her new found love are going to move away and leave him with his father’s dysfunctional post-divorce family which is a credible fear.  It would only be a fear in his mind if it were not for the new acquaintance  he met in the library, a female acquaintance who convinces him that the world is against him.  Her negativity influences him greatly and their relationship brings about the sad turn of events that follow. 

Overall, Joyce Maynard brings about a relatively small cast of characters but they are powerful characters and, given my last post, I think we can understand where I stand on the subject of strong characters.  I recommend this book, not because it was the best book I’ve ever read and not because the movie was great because I cannot attest to that.  I recommend this book for the simple reason that it was good.  This book is proof that one can try something new and come to enjoy it. 

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