Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book to Movie: Labor Day by Joyce Maynard


Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
William Morrow, 2009
Fiction; 244 pgs

Years ago, I read The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard, which dealt with the 9/11 terror attack.  It was a story about grief and learning to move on, and it was one that touched my heart.  Joyce Maynard is one of those authors I always meant to return to, but never managed to.  Until now. In part, that is due to the recent release of the movie.  I wanted to see the movie, but, like so many others, had this burning desire to read the book first.

Labor Day takes place in Holton Hills, New Hampshire.  For the young narrator and his mother, life is mostly about getting through each day.  Henry is thirteen years old, and in many ways typical.  He has wet dreams and is fascinated by the opposite sex, but is also confused by his feelings and thoughts.  He loves his mother fiercely, however, has spent most of his life trying to make her happy.  She's always so sad and doesn't have much interest in life outside her own house.  She rarely goes out, and does what she can to avoid it as often as possible.  His mother, Adele, hadn't always been depressed.  She once had been a dancer, full of dreams and of life. He loved listening to his mother's stories about her younger days.  Henry has no friends and escapes often in books and television.  His mother and father divorced years before, his father remarrying and starting a new family.  

The weekend before school is to start, Labor Day weekend, on a rare excursion to the store, Henry and his mother are approached by a man looking for a ride, preferably to their house where he can tend to his wounds and clean himself up.  Instinctively trusting the man, they allow him to come home with them.  Frank is a convicted murderer who has just escaped from custody.  He is upfront about who he is and his intentions, promising he means Adele and Henry no harm.

The novel takes place over the course of a week, the week in which Frank is with the family.  Frank reawakens something long lost in both Henry and Adele, and none of their lives will be the same after.

There is nothing rushed about this novel.  At least in terms of the writing or story.  There is great sadness in the novel, and my heart ached for Henry and his mother, Adele.  

Perhaps because of what I do for a living, I was less inclined to buy Frank's story at face value.  I wanted to trust him and like him just as Adele and Henry did, but I was always wary of him.  It is clear that Adele is deeply troubled.  What kind of mother brings a convicted murderer into her home willingly? The way Maynard built her characters and her story, I almost believed it could happen.  But only just almost.

I loved Maynard's writing in The Usual Rules and I love it in Labor Day.  I also liked the care she took in crafting her characters, how real they became as I read the novel, and how much reflection went into their thoughts and actions.  Henry, as the narrator, of course, is at the heart of the novel and he definitely stole mine.  I could feel is uncertainty and frustration throughout the novel, and also his joy at having someone take such an interest in him--and not having to care for his mother for a short while.  What a relief that must have been.

After reading the book, I was excited about seeing the movie.  Kate Winslet was a wonderful choice to play Adele.  She was very believable as a woman suffering from Depression and social anxiety.  I enjoyed the movie for the most part.  The pacing seemed in line with the book.  It isn't a fast paced story, even given the subject matter.  It's less a suspense novel/movie as it is a more character driven one.  That isn't to say there is no suspense, however.  There's always that concern that Frank's hiding place will be discovered.

I liked that the movie built in more a sense of menace at the beginning of the film, making it more believable that Adele and Henry would take someone like Frank home.  There's an implied threat that I did not get from Frank's character in the book.

What I did not like about the movie, however, were the flashback scenes. Frank's story is mostly told in flashbacks, and for some reason, the movie makers decided to break those flashbacks into fragments, not necessarily revealing those fragments in order.  It made it confusing, even to someone who had read the book before hand.  I also felt not enough emphasis was given to Adele's past, the reason she was the way she was.  It's mentioned in the movie, but it seemed more like an after thought.

I am still glad I went to see the film, and even more so that I read the book. 


Rating of Book: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Joyce Maynard and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased the e-copy version of this book for my own reading pleasure.  I also purchased my own ticket to see the movie in a local theater.


© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

26 comments:

  1. I read this after reading The Usual Rules, too. I enjoyed both, but The Usual Rules has stuck with me much longer. That story was so heartbreaking and the dialogue between the young girl and her little brother broke my heart. You can find my reviews here. I also want to read her latest novel, After Her. She quite a storyteller. I used to love her weekly column in our Sunday paper.

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    1. Les - The Usual Rules has stuck with me as well. You're right. It was such a heartbreaking story. I do like her writing and would like to read more by her.

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  2. I loved the book and hope to catch the movie on dvd soon.

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    1. Diane - I hope you like the movie when you see it!

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  3. I liked the book more than you did and totally bought Adele bringing Frank home. When my book club discussed this book, one of our members told us that she brought a man home from the grocery store one time. He stayed with them for the weekend and then they put him on a bus to Florida.

    I agree with you on the movie - the flashback scenes were very poorly done.

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    1. Kathy - My background and life experiences make it hard for me to believe a mother would be so willing to open her door to a stranger, especially one who so clearly is up to no good. I have to remember I guess that there are people out there who are much more trusting than I am. :-) Perhaps if Frank hadn't been so clearly on the run and trying to hide from the authorities, I might have felt it more natural.

      I can also see it being more likely to happen in a rural or small town type environment.

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  4. I loved the book even though it contained a high creep factor. Maynard's writing is just too lovely to ignore. Haven't seen the movie though. With all the mixed reviews it's not something I'd rush out to see but I do plan to see it because of how passionate the author was during its production.

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    1. Ti - I love her writing. I hope you enjoy the movie when you get to it. I probably should put more space between my reading of books and when I see the movies, but sometimes my enthusiasm gets the better of me.

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  5. I haven't read anything by Maynard, but the book sounds interesting, even though I find it disturbing that a mother would bring a murderer into her home. I wonder how seeing the movie before reading the book would influence my opinion....

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    1. Jenclair - I've heard that it may be better to see the movie first in this case, so it's worth a try.

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  6. That is always the complaint I hear about the story...that many can't buy the idea of a mother putting her son in danger. Ultimately I didn't read the book or see the movie. I guess if the movie had gotten better reviews, I might have made the effort.

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    1. Sandy - I think Nancy (Bookfool) made a good point in her review/thoughts of the book in that Adele was suffering from mental illness and so perhaps that makes it more plausible.

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  7. I finished this one a few days ago in prep for book club tonight and I was surprised by how the story unfolded (told from Henry's point of view). I enjoyed it but you're right about the pacing! After finishing the book (which I liked), I'm not sure I have much interest in the movie. Ultimately it all felt SO sad to me. Too bad that Adele's story is more of an afterthought. They're all such fascinating characters.

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    1. Trish - I think this one would make a good book club pick. It was a very sad book, I agree. I do like the way it ended though.

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  8. To be honest, I am not sure if I want to read the book... I am thinking I might just watch the movie if I do anything.

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    1. Kelly - I hope you enjoy the movie if you do watch it. It's an interesting story, and Kate Winslet is such a good actress.

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  9. Kate Winslet can do litte wrong in my eyes so I do want to see the movies, but I've heard similar complaints about Frank and the flashbacks.

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  10. Ok, it's obvious I'm out of the loop on movies because I didn't realize the movie was already out! ha,ha... I love watching Kate Winslet so I'll add the movie to my list. I have to say the premise of the story is hard to buy but overall I'm intrigued!

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    1. Iliana - I probably wouldn't have known about it but for all the book to movie articles I read at the beginning of the year. I am always drawn to those types of movies.

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  11. Yes I liked the novel so I'm thinking I'll like the movie too. But I think I'll wait till DVD. I'd like to read another of her books in the future. http://www.thecuecard.com/

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    1. Sandra - That sounds like a good plan! I recommend The Usual Rules, if you haven't read it.

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  12. I didn't even realize that there was a movie coming out based on this book. I definitely would like to read this one especially after reading your review :)

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    1. Samantha - I probably wouldn't have known about the movie had I not read up on movie releases of movies based on books at the beginning of the year.

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  13. Missed this one, somehow. I've not heard of the author or of the film, but it sounds intriguing. Well done completing this category for What's In A Name.

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    1. Charlie - I like this author's writing style and the way she deal with difficult topics in not so obvious ways.

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