The book is narrated two decades [after the events in the book] by Henry, unsuccessfully pretending he’s 13 again, which makes him a two-time loser. If Labor Day is supposed to be a feel-good story, why did I feel so bad while reading it? Because it’s less likely and more saccharine than the escaped con’s lovingly described peach pie.
Tom LeClair - New York Times
It is a testament to Maynard's skill that she makes this ominous setup into a convincing and poignant coming-of-age tale. As she has revealed in her memoirs and five previous novels, Maynard has had her own share of unsuitable attachments. She understands the deep yearnings that drive people to impulsive decisions and sometimes reckless behavior.
Carolyn Preston - Washington Post
Labor Day is suffused with tenderness, dreaminess and love.... First and foremost a page-turner.... [it] puts back together the world that it detroys.... You definitely need to get a box of tissues.
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
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.
National Public Radio (NPR.org)
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.
In her sixth novel, Maynard (To Die For) tells the story of a long weekend and its repercussions through the eyes of a then 13-year-old boy, Henry, who lives with his divorced mother, Adele. On Labor Day weekend, Henry manages to coax his mother, who rarely goes out, into a trip to PriceMart, where they run into Frank, who intimidates them into giving him a ride. Frank, it turns out, is an escaped convict looking for a place to hide. He holds Adele and Henry hostage in their home, an experience that changes all of them forever, whether it's Frank tying Adele to the kitchen chair with her silk scarves and lovingly feeding her or teaching the awkward, unathletic Henry how to throw a baseball. The bizarre situation encompasses Henry's budding adolescence, the awakening of his sexuality and his fear of being abandoned by his mother and Frank, who are falling in love and planning to run away together. Maynard's prose is beautiful and her characters winningly complicated, with no neat tie-ups in the end. A sometimes painful tale, but captivating and surprisingly moving.
The summer Henry turned 13, he had many questions about sex, "but it was clear my mother was not the person to discuss this with." A dancer, pretty like Ginger from Gilligan's Island, Adele had withdrawn from the world after her divorce from Henry's dad. Mother and son lead a lonely life together, subsisting on stacks of Cap'n Andy frozen fish dinners while Adele half-heartedly tries to sell vitamins by phone. Adele rarely leaves home, except when pressed to get Henry some last-minute back-to-school clothes. It's at Pricemart that the wounded pair meets Frank, a man with much to teach them about true love, baseball, and the best way to make a ripe peach pie. Verdict: There's a catch, of course—Frank's just escaped from prison, and there's a full-fledged manhunt underway. This coming-of-age story is gentle, unexpected, and simply told.
Christine Perkins - Library Journal
A pubescent boy learns about sorrow and regret during one blisteringly hot holiday weekend. Shifts of tone mark the progression of Maynard's latest (Internal Combustion, 2006, etc.). In an unlikely opening, 13-year-old Henry and his mother Adele agree to take home Frank, the bleeding man they meet while shopping at Pricemart. Frank turns out to be an escaped convict—a murderer in fact—yet he is unthreatening and domesticated, soon rustling up the best chili they have ever eaten. Adele, a romantic, has been left slightly unhinged and agoraphobic by her divorce; she and Frank quickly develop a sensual attraction observed by Henry, who is grappling with teenage angst over his sexuality. As the adults become lovers and Frank starts to teach Henry how to catch a baseball, the novel becomes a semi-comic exploration of what constitutes the ideal American family. But then Frank describes the circumstances of his conviction, an implausible chronicle of deception and coincidence that considerably darkens the novel's mood. Henry fears his mother is about to abandon him and shares his anxiety with his anorexic new girlfriend Eleanor, but he is wrong: The plan is for all three to flee to Canada, a plan that Eleanor will stymie. Narrated by the adult Henry 18 years later, the story shows how a boy digests, then uses the lessons learned that hot weekend. Redemption is eventually offered to all parties. Maynard expertly tugs heartstrings in a tidy tale.
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