Sunday, February 16, 2014

Labor Day

No, I'm not losing my mind, I know it's February.  I took a break from some of the heavier reading on my plate and picked up Labor Day, by Joyce Maynard.  You may have seen the million commercials for the movie that's based on the book.

This is a really quick read.  Most of the "real time" in the book covers six days around Labor Day, sometime in the 1980s.  There's also plenty of flashbacks and at the end, flashes forward. Since I've seen so many of the movie commercials, in my head, I could only picture Kate Winslet as Adele.  Which is fine, she seems like a good fit.    


A few observations - the story seems to focus on sex and body parts an awful lot.  Then I realized, yes, the narrator is 13-year old Henry. Duh.  I've never been a 13-year old boy, but as far as I can tell, Maynard does a pretty good job speaking in one's voice. The mother-son relationship is realistic, too.  I imagine I would feel responsible for her happiness, too.  

SPOILER ALERT:  I figured the story would end in a bloodbath of some sort or another.  I was pretty sure Frank would die tragically, or that even worse, Adele would.  Or, that Henry would more directly sell Frank out.  That Maynard didn't take those routes, I think those are good things.  The ending is as happy as it could realistically be.

As a child of the 80s, the pop culture references made me smile.  Actors dressed in raisin outfits singing on TV.  Minivans with sliding doors being a new thing.  Very nostalgic.      

Some of the plotting seems a little too pat - the convict charms the one family in town with an emotionally fragile Mom who is home all the time, a Dad that lives elsewhere with his new family, and a house at the very end of a street surrounded by woods and not very visible from the neighbors?  Incredible luck, that.

But Maynard is very good at dialogue.  Not too many words, and distinct style.  You get a real sense of Adele's character from how she speaks.   

  Final call:  

Labor Day is a pretty classic coming-of-age story, and there's definitely a lot worse fiction out there you could be sticking your nose into.  Just don't expect instant gratification for the leads; they wait and wait for their resolution.   


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