Labor Day

Labor Day

by Joyce Maynard

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With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonement and Nick Hornby's About a Boy, acclaimed author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery as seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy—and the man he later becomes—looking back at an unexpected encounter that begins one single long, hot, life-alteringweekend.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061893926
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/28/2009
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of eight previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in California.

What People are Saying About This

Wichita Falls

“Maynard spins a fascinating story of damaged people seeking the one thing they long forlove. ”

Jodi Picoult

“Joyce Maynard is in top-notch form with Labor Day. From the perfect pitch of a teenaged boy narrator to the eloquent message of how loneliness can bind people together, this is simply a novel you cannot miss.”


How I came to Write My Novel, by Joyce Maynard

I always tell students, when I teach writing, to locate their obsessions, and look to them when they're searching for the story they should be telling. When a writer attaches her work to the engine of what she cares about most passionately (even irrationally, perhaps) the work will be infused with a similar passion, I believe. And come into being most organically.

This new novel of mine-though it's a product of my imagination, not my experience-contains elements of so many of my deepest obsessions. I think that's why I wrote it so easily and swiftly-almost as if I were transcribing a story being dictated to me from inside my brain.

Anyone who has read my work for a while can recognize a few obvious connections to my history, starting with the experience of having been, for many years, a single parent of sons (also a daughter) living in a small town not unlike the imaginary town in which I located the novel. I like to think I have a somewhat more stable and grounded hold on reality and life in the world than Adele (and I am, if anything, the opposite of agoraphobic). But I share a number of her attributes: For starters, there's a hugely romantic nature and a love of dancing (though not her abilities on the dance floor; that part is the stuff of fantasy.) On a deeper level, though, I understand well the sorrow and regret a woman feels when the dream of family life as she envisioned it has left her. My sons-though I like to think they would weigh in with more positive feelings about their growing up years than negative ones-could certainly identify with the feelings Henry has, of undue responsibility for his mother.(Henry's innocent gift, to Adele, of the Husband-for-a-Day coupon was inspired by a similar gift presented to me one Christmas by my son Charlie, when he was around nine or ten.)

I am always interested-no, fascinated-by children's perceptions of the adults in their world. The mysterious subject of sex, the first discovery of one's own sexuality, and the disquieting experience- for a child of divorced parents in particular-of witnessing a parent's sexuality even as they embark on their own sexual lives. Complicated enough, when a child is contemplating the idea of his parents together-but the experience for a young person (a boy in particular) of seeing his mother with some other man is one I have thought about for a long time. (Ever since my son Willy-then age seven-responded to my going out on a date for the first time, after separating from his father, by taking a kitchen knife and plunging it directly into the crotch of a cardboard effigy of the country singer Randy Travis that I had propped up in our front hall . . . Willy is now 24 by the way. A very healthy person who displays no signs of being a psychopath.)

Back to the obsession list. My experience of having gone through a painful custody battle many years ago-and the horrifying experience of being evaluated as a mother by a guardian ad litem-is in there. My history as a teenage girl with eating disorders also surfaced in this story, along with the guilt I carry about a betrayal I committed-at around that time in life-of a classmate's trust in me, when around age fourteen-an event that formed the basis for the first story I ever published in a magazine (Seventeen), somewhere around 1970 . . .

Another experience that found its way into this novel (and one I also wrote about, in non-fiction form, a few years back) was a kind of fantasy love affair I found myself in, when I was myself a young and very lonely single mother, living in a small New Hampshire town with my three young children, and I got a letter (first one, then a hundred more) from a man in prison, who seemed to know and understand me better than anyone else. (I eventually learned-when it appeared he was getting out of prison and coming to visit my children and me-that this man was a double murderer. I first told the story at The Moth in New York, and later wrote it in an essay that appeared in Vogue, and in a collection published a few years back, called Mr. Wrong.)

I will add here, that this is the third time in which I have chosen, for the central character of a novel of mine, a character who is thirteen years old. This is clearly an age that means a lot to me, and though I haven't been thirteen for many decades, I still feel very connected to that time of life.

One odd little obsession that I included in the novel, with particular pleasure, concerns pie. Ever since the death of my mother, nineteen years ago, I have set myself the task of teaching pie-making to anyone I encounter who expresses frustration with making good crust-and the numbers of my past students have long since entered the triple digits. (I have also often run large gatherings of pie students at my home, to raise money for my political candidate. Always a Democrat . . .) I could talk a lot about what this pie exercise means to me-certainly it has to do with my mother, but also with honoring the old ways of doing things by hand, and paying attention to instinct (more than a recipe). And I have to add, I love it that I was able to include, in a work of fiction, instructions for making a pie crust that really will result in a good pie, if followed.

The final obsession I will mention here-and it is the one that inspired my first novel, Baby Love, twenty-eight years ago-is babies. Although I am very different from Adele in many ways, the way she feels about having a baby is how I felt all my life. And what Frank says concerning the importance of paying attention to babies-and later, his thoughts are echoed by Henry, when he becomes a parent of a daughter-is everything I believe, myself. I have never met a baby I didn't like, or a crying baby I didn't feel I could bring to a state of calm. I just like babies a whole lot, and loved writing about that part here.

I want to add: I did not intentionally set out to address any of these topics. They just came out, because they're all the things that interest me most. No doubt this is why I loved writing this novel and wrote it so fast. (I could not stop writing.) I wanted to read it.

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Labor Day 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 175 reviews.
SharonChance More than 1 year ago
Labor Day weekend, for most, is a time for celebration, a last fling before the seriousness of school and fall set in. In Joyce Maynard's new novel, "Labor Day," the holiday weekend is not quite a party for one family in a small New Hampshire town. It will be a time of life-altering occurrences that would shape their futures forever. Thirteen year old Henry and his mother, Adele, are shopping for school items when they are approached by a bleeding man asking for their help. So they take him home, to find out later that the man, Frank, is an escaped convict on the run. He somehow cajoles Adele into letting him stay while the police search for him, and she agrees. This would be the beginning of a six-day odyssey for Henry and his mother that neither of them could ever have imagined. As the story unfolds, through Henry's voice, the reader is taken through Henry's family history of a bitter divorce, miscarried babies, remarriage and new siblings and his mother's gradual loss of her grip on reality. It seems as if Frank is somewhat of a savior come to turn their lives around. He gives Henry the attention that he craves from a father-figure, and to Adele he gives companionship and adoration that she has been without for so long. In a mesmerizing way, Frank weaves his way into their lives, making beautiful promises that he could never keep. When Henry begins to realize that this idyllic situation is doomed, it's up to him, as man of the house, to save his mother from certain heartbreak, if not incarceration. Maynard spins a fascinating story of damaged people seeking the one thing they long for - love. It's intriguing to watch these characters go through their paces, all the time wanting to yell at them "don't you know what's going on here?" and "how could you be so stupid?" But wrapping her tale up with a satisfying ending, the reader can take away a sense of completion for Henry's family and that is a gift in itself. - Sharon Galligar Chance (
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down! The depth of the characters are great! The story is so sad, yet very touching....I couldn't stop the tears! I really liked the ending! This author is a great writer! Don't miss this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maynard's characters were so real, i could picture them with ease.  Labor day is funny, warm, awakening emotions through the vivid characters.  The author's passions are, indeed, most evident in this wonderful story. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why do these people write a review tellingbthe WHOLE story??????? Do they not realize it ruins it for us who havent read it yet? These people should not be allowed to write more than like 100word review!! I am now very disappointed! Thanks again you know who you are you ruin every singke book that you read by writing the whole story in ur review! Well B&N u can thank her for me once again not purchasing ANOTHER book from me!!!!!!! :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took me about 100 pages to get into the book. But even after that, there was still something missing. As a reader, i want a book that as i read it i put myself in a characters situation and i couldn't in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about a mother and her son who let an escaped fugitive into their home for the Labor Day weekend. The mother and son have very few friends. The book centers on how the characters interact with each other while trying to stay as low key as possible. This is a good book about love and forgiveness and well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And here comes harriet klausner with her cliff note book report ruining another book. Please bn, ban this poster and delete all her plot spoiling posts. They totally ruin every book she touches.
PVDPD More than 1 year ago
Bought it after I saw a screening of the film. I liked it better. All written in the first person voice of the young boy at the heart of the story, it's an exposition on how love can come even to those that are broken and damaged.
DanielleWI More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was great read and held my attention from start to finish. Could barely put it down!
bookwormmamaNE More than 1 year ago
This is my first read by this author and thought it was a strong writing style and well developed characters I just really struggled with the story I think. It was hard for me to believe from the beginning and found myself disappointed I guess throughout most of it. The flow is a little weak for me at the end when such a short time of the story is drug on through so many chapters and then BAM we fly through adulthood. I would have rather had a little more leading up to his adult life or nothing at all and ended in his youth, just made it feel too rushed at the end. Hard book for me enjoy, Sorry!
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
Henry is thirteen-years-old and a bit of a recluse. As the other boys in the neighborhood spend their time outside, Henry spends his time indoors, watching TV and taking care of his divorced mother, Adele. Their meals consist of canned soup and quiet conversation. This is a typical day for them. However, during one, long, hot Labor Day weekend, they head to the local Pricemart to pick up a few items. This, in itself, is rare as Adele does not enjoy being outside anymore. She'd rather stay in the comfort of her home but on this particular morning, she decides to enter the store with Henry. While she is shopping, Henry is confronted by a man named Frank. The man, obviously injured, is in pain and simply asks if Henry and his mom can help him. Although Adele has her issues, she has been known to help those in need in the past, so Henry takes Frank to his mom, and their lives change forever. Frank has a story of course. A sketchy past involving a mistake he made when he was younger, but through Frank's actions, Adele sees a man who is solid and true. A man who cares deeply for those close to him, and when he manages to bring happiness into their home, happiness that hasn't existed for years, Henry becomes fond of him too. Labor Day is a wonderful read. The characters are forced to look within themselves and the interactions between them are so beautifully orchestrated. I say orchestrated because their interactions are seamless and subtle but speak volumes as far as what's going on within these people. It takes an author's delicate hand to push that envelope. Pushing it too much creates a "staged" feel and not pushing it enough creates hollow characters without substance. Labor Day is my favorite type of book. It's the kind of book that you read, experience and then once done, think about for days on end. I highly recommend it.
me2nc More than 1 year ago
This book was really interesting to me and I enjoyed how Joyce Maynard wrote so vividly that I could picture characters and scenes as I read the book. I saw the movie trailer and knew I wanted to read the book first and I'm glad I did. Although the movie was decent, it did not do the book justice. My husband actually watched with me and a few times I had to tell him bits and pieces of the book itself to fill him in on little details that were missing. The book was amazing and I highly recommend it if you just want a good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the ending. Didnt want it to end. I will ck out other books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Probably one of the best books I have ever read, I really connected to this story. At first the lack of quotation marks bothered me (yes, I am that weird), but the style was effortless and completely engaging. I almost don't want to see the movie for fear of falling out of love with this story...!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I simply could not put this book down! I found this story to be engaging and touching from the first to the last page. The ending is so well constructed as this now 31 year old man looks back on his 13 year old self. You're right there with him as he makes sense of it all.....definitely a tear jerker at the end! Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book engaging and easy to read. Its nice to read a good ole story.
lhutch More than 1 year ago
This story is about a woman, with her young son, who meets a man in a store and because he needs help, takes him to their home she shares with her son. This is the only unrealistic issue with this book. Her doing this is a contradiction to her carefully raising her son to protect him from some of society's evils. If you can get past this point, it's a lovely story. The mom, boy and man all basically fall in love. As the story twists and turns, you begin to see that this may not work out for any of them, but hang in there and the ending will surprise and delight you. The story is well written and quickly creates empathy for the characters involved. It moves at just the right pace, and I plan on reading other novels by this author. Hope you enjoy it!
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a powerful story! Pure fiction at its best! Several reviewers have been quoted as saying they could not put it down. I couldn't either. This is a book I can hardly wait to talk about with people who have read it, but don't want to spoil for those who are yet to have the fantastic experience of reading it for the first time.The main character Henry, 13 years old, lives with his hamster Jim and his mother Adele who is becoming more and more of a recluse. He visits with his father and step mother and their children once a week, but seems to accept his aloneness (and his mother's withdrawal from life)with a sort of "that's life" attitude.Into this life comes Frank, a grown man with a bleeding leg, and a propensity to 'borrow' things from the Pricemart where they meet. Once he appears on page 5, you will not be able to put this book down. Your heart will be in your throat, your pulse will race, your breathing will stop. Don't misunderstand, this is not a physic terror story, nor is it bloody or fantasy-like. It is simply a story of three people, each dealing with life issues, and how each reacts to events and circumstances, and interacts with the others over a six day period. Some things they have control over, some they do not. You can see several different possible endings coming, you don't know which one you want, and you don't want it to end badly. I think most people will find the ending acceptable.This is a story of growing up, a story of teen-age angst, a story of trust, a story of betrayal. But most of all it is a story of possibilities, realities, and dreams--life as we all experience it, but life as we hope we never have to.I'm sure his book will be on many book club discussion lists. I can't wait to see it in bookstores and libraries in August. It is going to be one of my "best of the year." So put in your reservations, and mark time on your calendar.
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do you remember those pivotal moments in your life, those memories of maybe a few days in which your life changed completely? The Labor Day weekend that Henry was 13 was like that for him and his mother, Adele. Sometime in the 1980s, Henry and his mother are living in an isolated home in New Hampshire until Frank Chambers enters their lives. He is an escaped convict who comes to their house to hide out, and the experience will leave neither Henry nor Adele unchanged.Henry narrates the story in a slightly meandering sort of way, with several flashbacks that allow the reader to know him and his mother far beyond what happens in just those five days. There are no quotation marks, a device that usually annoys me but surprisingly worked in this story because I felt more firmly in Henry's head. Henry, Adele, and Frank are wonderful characters; I cared about what happened to them and wanted to spend more time with them when the story was over.
walterqchocobo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
13 year old Henry lives with his divorced mother Adele in New Hampshire at the end of summer, just before Labor Day. Adele doesn't leave the house much after the divorce and neither does Henry. Henry and Adele are at Pricemart when Frank, bleeding and limping, asks for Henry's help. Frank comes back to their house. From here, Henry tells the story of the Labor Day weekend with Adele and Frank. I thought the author did a pretty good job of portraying the socially awkward 13 year old Henry. It was a sweet little story about love and family, even if it was a bit predictable. I would read more from this author. I listened to the audiobook version and the narrator Wilson Bethel did a fantastic job as Frank--that is exactly how I imagined his voice to be.
tela1226 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I started reading "Labor Day", I quickly began preparing for the worst possible outcomes for the characters. Adele, an unstable mother, and her 13-year-old son Henry willingly take in an escaped murdered. How can this possibly end well? As the story unfolded, I was forced to reconsider my assumptions. Adele was not a bad mother; just doing the best that she could with the tragic hand she had been dealt. Frank was not a brutal murderer; rather a lost soul trying to make his way in a world gone awry. Joyce Maynard tells a beautiful story of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. I enjoyed and was moved by this novel.
mlschmidt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing! What a wonderful, wonderful, story, I was hooked from the first page. The insight that Joyce Maynard provided to the emotions and thoughts of a thirteen year old boy is captivating.
marcyjill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Labor Day is more than a coming of age story, it is a story about love and coming to understand the meaning of love between two people as well as between parent and child. It is a beautifully told story about how these loves need not be mutually exclusive and actually cannot survive if they are. Joyce Maynard's story-telling keeps you glued to the book from start to finish. Although the plot is as slow moving as the summer heat, the voyeuristic look at the lives of these characters kept me hooked. It was a lot like reading someone's diary. Each character was unique and fully brought to life and throughout the story, things are not always what they seem.I will definitely be looking for other Joyce Maynard books.