Joyce Maynard: ‘Labor Day’
You’ve probably heard of the recent film release Labor Day with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. I’m not going to talk about that because I haven’t seen it, but the film release did make me grab for the book it’s based on by Joyce Maynard that’s been sitting on my bookshelf. I’m a fan of Maynard’s writing on all things youth, and picked Labor Day up a few years ago.
If you’ve seen the trailor you probably already know that it’s a story of a mother and son who end up harboring an escaped convict over Labor Day weekend. At first I was surprised by this premise. It didn’t seem very Maynard-esque. Too focused on adults. But the story is through the pre-adolescent boy’s perspective, so in fact, it turned out to be very Maynard indeed. There are all the complicated emotions of being a kid at a time when you’re starting to grow up and deal with grown up things. When this very kind, fatherly sort of convict enters his life, Henry finally feels like part of a family and his and his mother’s happiness hangs in the balance throughout the novel. The plot itself is also very Maynard: Something huge and unexpected crashes into a family’s life. You’ll find this is a common thread if you read her other fiction.
A few years ago, I got the chance to interview Maynard about her young adult book, The Usual Rules. Sadly, I think that interview disappeared into the Internet abyss, but what I remember most about talking with her was how she seemed like that cool aunt who would give you the best birthday gift ever because it would be something she made herself and is so you. I suppose I got that impression from the way she gets people, especially young people.
I was about 25 when we spoke and just beginning to frame an idea of what a writer’s life could be like. She was (and still is, I believe) spending a lot of her time in Guatemala and teaching writing to young people, and is a person who has had about three lives so far, maybe more. If you want to learn more about her past lives, check out her website. But her present life, one in which she got married not long ago, and seems to have a sense of peace and happiness, is the one she’s writing from now. Which is not to say that she writes about easy subjects. Tragedy is in her repertoire. But she handles her subject matter as a person with the life experience to write her characters through whatever she inflicts on them.
I look forward to adding more of her novels to my reading list and keeping tabs on her writing life as it continues to reinvent itself.
Have you read the book? Seen the movie? Should I see the movie?
Gigglers: I’m not going to seek out the newest hardcovers and tell you whether or not to buy them. And while not the Sunday Review, this Sunday blog will explore my brilliant and fascinating thoughts about books. Please use the comments section to share your own thoughts on this book, or whatever you’re reading.