Labor Day

review: Anita Paddock

By Joyce Maynard
William Morrow Publishers: $13.99

I recently saw previews for the movie, Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. I can’t wait to see it because I’ve read the book, and I loved it.

The novel was written by Joyce Maynard and published in 2009. The story is narrated by a man looking back on a week in his life over Labor Day. It is a story of love lost, and love found.

Henry is thirteen and lives with his mother, Adele. She is depressed over her recent divorce, sells vitamins over the phone, and rarely leaves the house. Their cupboards are stocked with tomato soup, and frozen dinners fill the freezer. It seems she misses the joy and comfort of married life more than the man himself.

Henry’s father has remarried and has a new baby daughter. He also has a step-son who’s Henry’s age and excels in everything Henry does not. The boys don’t like each other, making it even more uncomfortable for Henry’s weekly visits with his father’s new family.

Henry and his mother live on a dead end street in a small town in New Hampshire where everyone knows everyone else. He feels responsible for his mom, which puts him in an awkward situation at a time when he is thinking about girls and all that implies. He’s unable to talk to his mother about these new feelings, and he’s so uncomfortable with his father that he can’t talk with him either.

On an infrequent shopping trip for school clothes, Henry bumps into a man named Frank whose leg is bleeding. Frank asks for help, so Henry and Adele take him home with them. They soon find out that he is an escaped convict and the police are searching the area for him. He demands to stay with them while he recuperates, and eventually Frank and Adele fall in love. Frank does odd jobs around the house, plays baseball with Henry, and cooks for the family. His specialty is baking pies, and he teaches Adele and Henry the art of pastry making.

Of course, their idyllic life must come to an end, and the final chapters of this book are pretty heart-wrenching.

I’ll have to see the movie before I make the call on which is better, the movie or the book. That’s one of the great things about seeing a movie that’s based on a book you love. It’s fun to see a book come to life on the Big Screen, and see how close the story is to the one you read and loved. It also makes for great conversation after the show, when you can tell your friends how the Hollywood script differs from the book.

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