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'Labor Day': a review

Labor Day


This coming-of-age tale by Joyce Maynard follows a boy on the cusp of manhood, his agoraphobic mother and their time spent with an extraordinary escaped convict over a sweltering Labor Day weekend in the mid-80's. Told by Henry, the reader learns of the boy's own sexual awakening, the emotional bounds his mother places upon him, and the betrayal that we inflict upon one another - no matter the depth of our love.

Kate Winslet at Labor Day's premiere
Photo by Stuart C. Wilson

Our group mainly enjoyed this book, with a few exceptions. The primary concern of the group was that the Maynard's writing style plods along very slowly and is edited in a way that does not lend to quotations. A few members mentioned that Labor Day seems less like a novel and more like a first-person account told by a man recalling distant memories of his thirteen year old self.

Across the board, however, the story was described as a thing of beauty.

Shannon: I feel like Henry was a real flesh and blood person, whispering into Joyce Maynard's ear while she was writing the book. She did a brilliant job of capturing the frustrations, awkwardness, and the inner turmoil of blossoming adulthood in Henry.

The expectations for the movie are universally that the inner dialogue of our narrator, Henry, must be included.

Amy: I am looking forward to the movie - I hope that they are able to translate the [narrator's] inner dialogue to the screen. The story takes place in such a short amount of time that I hope that they can show how the encounter with this stranger changed these people permanently.

Maria: It will be difficult to capture the heat that Maynard so exquisitely detailed throughout the story - the passion between Adele and Frank, the positively sweltering temps of that Labor Day weekend, the pressure that Henry underwent by trying to please his narcissistic mother and dispassionate father - I feel like the underlying theme of this story was simply unadulterated, scorching heat.

The group's bottom line: B+ for a unique take on a coming-of-age tale; a well-crafted and thoughtfully detailed novel; thoroughly drawn characters; gently satisfying. If you like John Irving, you'll enjoy this emotional, charming little novel.

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