Labor Day is the latest book from Joyce Maynard, a writer whose work I always look forward to. She has a unique way of looking at the world. While the premise of this book seems unbelievable, she makes it seem as if this scenario could actually happen.
This novel tells the story of a single mother and her thirteen year old son, living an isolated existence in a small New Hampshire town in the 1980’s. At the start of the Labor Day weekend, Henry and Adele embark on a rare outing to Pricemark to purchase pants for Henry for the upcoming school year. While at the store, Henry is approached by a man in a Pricemark shirt who asks for his help.
Adele and Henry give Frank a ride to their home, located at the end of a dead end street. Frank, it turns out, is an escaped convict. (Henry also has a pet hamster at home who is kept in a cage. This book is loaded with metaphor!) There are roadblocks on the highways leading out of town, and Frank is sure he just needs to lay low for a few days before making his escape.
Frank has chosen wisely. Henry and Adele have few visitors, and little contact with the world. They also could use Frank’s help around the house: fixing leaks, changing light bulbs, even baking pies. As the scorching Labor Day weekend unfolds, the relationship between Frank and Adele deepens, with Henry feeling more alienated.
Labor Day is told from the perspective of a grown-up Henry. He is able to see his mother and his younger self objectively, and compassionately. So fortunately we are spared hysterics and histrionics. Maynard allows the reader to understand the story and the characters, and to gradually develop feelings towards them.
Labor Day was a quick read, and I would definitely recommend it.
Published in hardcover-William Morrow-2009