Book Review – Labor Day

“The real drug, I came to believe, was love.” –Joyce Maynard

Labor Day

This book is interesting. There are a lot of themes at play and the writing is done differently from many other books I’ve read. The author is looking back at his life as a preteen when his family took in an escaped felon into their home during Labor Day weekend. About 90% of the book takes place over the course of that weekend. Frank, the escaped felon, is not a harsh criminal and slowly begins to reveal his story to the young boy, Henry, and his mother, Adele.

SPOILER ALERT

The story that unfolds with his mother and her past is serious and shows the journey that some mothers or would-be mothers have had to encounter regarding miscarriages and trouble with conceiving children. This trouble makes it difficult for her to go in public and see other women with children or who are pregnant. Ultimately, she becomes a shut-in over time and only leaves the house when absolutely necessary. I am not a mother and have not attempted to conceive children at this point in my life but I can somehow understand how 4 miscarriages would lead any normal woman to want to simply stay home at all times. Sadly, her story makes complete sense to me.

On the brighter side of the book, Henry begins to learn that he has more to offer than he lets on. His parents have been separated for many years and he only truly sees his father on Saturday nights for dinner with his ‘new’ family. When Frank enters his life, he brings many of the traditional American staples – baseball and pie, to start. Frank teaches Henry how to make his grandmother’s famous peach pie and plays catch with him, even though Henry assures him that he is no good at baseball. He finds that when he is relaxed, he plays much better and with Frank, he remarkably becomes relaxed. Frank becomes a stronger father figure for him in the long weekend then his father does through most of his life. We even find out at the end of the book that Henry has become a chef at a bakery using Frank’s peach pie recipe.

SUMMARY

Joyce Maynard, the author, plays around with a lot of American staples – baseball, pie, Labor Day – to show that there are many different forms of the ‘American dream.’ It’s a good book, and relatively short, that hasn’t received a ton of recognition or acclaim at this time. There are a few parts that might keep parents from having their younger kids read it but it’s certainly interesting for the preteen and older demographic to read.

GRADE: B

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