Labor Day (Paperback)
Harper Perennial, 9780061843419, 244pp.
Publication Date: August 3, 2010
August 2009 Indie Next List
— Lisa Sharp, Nightbird Books, Fayetteville, AR
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Winter 2011 Reading Group List
— Cathy Allard, BayShore Books LLC, Oconto, WI
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"Joyce Maynard is in top-notch form with Labor Day. Simply a novel you cannot miss."
--Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of My Sister's Keeper and Keeping Faith
"Maynard has created an ensemble of characters that will sneak into your heart, and warm it while it breaks."
--St. Petersburg Times
Joyce Maynard, acclaimed author of At Home in the World, is back with Labor Day. The unforgettable story of a mother and son forever changed during a long summer weekend when a mysterious man comes into their lives. Labor Day is "a sexy, page turning, poignant story" (Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World) that "affirms Maynard's reputation as a master storyteller and shows her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart" (People)
Praise For Labor Day…
“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.”
-Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of My Sister's Keeper and Handle With Care
“[The] story is moving and fast-moving, affirming Maynard’s reputation as a master storyteller and showing her to be a passionate humanist with a gifted ear and heart. . . . Maynard illuminates the human experience.”
-People (Four Stars)
“Maynard expertly tugs heartstrings in a tidy tale. ”
“Maynard’s inventive coming-of-age tale indelibly captures the anxiety and confusion inherent in adolescence, while the addition of a menacing element of suspense makes this emotionally fraught journey that much more harrowing.”
“Maynard is in top form in this tale of love, betrayal, and forgiveness.”
“Maynard deftly pulls the reader into the fragile lives of these three vulnerable characters and their preordained march toward the novel’s denouement. A marvelous read––perfect for one long sitting––this novel leaves the reader wishing it didn’t ever have to end.”
“Maynard...is in top form in this tale of love, betrayal and forgiveness.”
-Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
-New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Maynard offers fresh insight into what constitutes family.”
“It is a testament to Maynard’s skill that she makes this ominous setup into a convincing and poignant coming-of-age tale.”
“Maynard details Henry’s roller-coaster emotions for Frank – he is both jealous and grateful – and his mother’s emotional journeys – with skill and tenderness for the uncertain willingness of broken hearts to mend. The poignant results are revealing of our ability to forgive and to grow.”
“Labor Day is suffused with tenderness, dreaminess and love....first and foremost a page-turner...[it] puts back together the world that it destroys....you definitely need to get a box of tissues.”
“a haunting and hopeful story”
“[A] sweet, swift read that will leave you feeling good.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The novel is an extended meditation on the nature of love, grief and loneliness.... Maynard has created an ensemble of characters that will sneak into your heart, and warm it while it breaks. ”
-St. Petersburg Times
“Maynard gets inside the head of an adolescent boy who is grappling with his own identity and the mysteries of sex (while revealing the secrets of making perfect pie crust). ”
-Salt Lake City Tribune
“Maynard spins a fascinating story of damaged people seeking the one thing they long for – love. ”
-Wichita Falls, TX, Times Record News
“Labor Day is a startling novel of love, friendship, trust, treachery, betrayal, and the deep lessons that we learn in life.... It’s a powerful, poignant mix in the hands of author Joyce Maynard and a novel no one should miss.”
“Labor Day is both a coming-of-age story and a love story- a tale of profound loss, redemption and soul searching that is not to be missed.”
“Maynard has created an ensemble of characters that will sneak into your heart, and warm it while it breaks.”
-St. Petersburg Times
“But apart from being a successful thriller, this book is a fascinating portrait of what causes a family to founder, and how much it can cost to put it back on the right path. ”
“At once beautiful and disturbing, this remarkable novel…is a moving read.”
-BookPage.com on LABOR DAY
“an uplifting story told by a boy who is just beginning to understand what life is all about.”
-St. Petersburg Times
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- As reported by Henry, his mother Adele displays a number of behaviors that could be interpreted as crazy. How do you explain her son's steadiness and competence? Do you consider Adele to be a bad mother?
- When you were first introduced to the character of Frank (p. 5), what was your feeling about him? As you learned more about Frank over the course of the story, did your impression of him change? If so, what details and actions can you identify that caused you to alter your opinion of him?
- Were you surprised that Adele was willing to bring Frank to her home? Why do you think she did?
- Henry's father and his wife, Marjorie, live a much more steady and "normal" life than the one Henry shares with Adele. Why do you think Henry remains so loyal to his mother, concealing aspects of her behavior that would no doubt alarm his father?
- Were you surprised to discover than Frank is a good baker? What does his baking ability tell you about him? Why do you think the author chose to offer such a detailed description of Frank's pie-making technique?
- The novel is set at a time during which a number of transitions are taking place in the lives of the main characters. What transition if Henry going through? Adele? Frank? How is that feeling of transition echoed in the time period in which the story is framed (the end of summer and the beginning of the school year)?
- Henry often refers to a "normal family," a "regular family," a "family." What does the concept of family mean to Henry? What does the term "normal family" mean to you?
- What was your first impression of the character of Eleanor? Did this impression change as you got to know her better? Why do you think Eleanor behaves as she does?
- How does Eleanor go about instilling fear and doubts about Frank in Henry? Why do you think she does this? What is she hoping to accomplish?
- In Chapter 18 Henry comments that seeing his mother happy with Frank "took me off the hook." At the same time, he appears to be threatened by the possibility that the intimacy she has discovered with Frank will cause her to abandon him. How does Henry go about reconciling these two conflicting responses to the love affair he witnesses, and how much of what takes place occurs as a result of this conflict?
- How do you think the events of that Labor Day weekend changed Henry? How might his life have gone if Frank had not shown up?
- Why do you think Adele relinquishes custody of Henry? Why does he decide to return to her?
- Were you surprised by what Henry says and does when he encounters Eleanor again, a year later, walking her dog? What do you think has caused Eleanor to become the person she is? Why is her dog named Jim?
- What does Henry's father mean when he observes that Adele "was in love with love"?
- Frank's experience with Adele and Henry cost him eighteen years of his life, and yet he expresses gratitude for having met them. How can this be? Do you believe the kind of love that existed between Adele and Frank can truly exist?