Book Review: Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Labor Day 2This is a short, snappy book – more a long short story, if such a thing exists.  The book hurtles along at pace, partly because of the author’s easy, flowing style and partly because it captures a short, furtive period of time.

Based in New Hampshire and centred on a blistering hot bank holiday weekend during the 1980s, the book tells the story of a young boy and his agoraphobic divorced mother.

One afternoon in a supermarket, they are approached by a bleeding, mysterious man asking for their help.  With little prompting, the mother drives him home and they quickly fall into a desperately passionate love affair.  Told through the eyes of her young son, ‘Labor Day’ is at once both a coming-of-age story and a complicated lesson in adult emotions.

This book seems to evoke one regular comment above others; what kind of mother takes a bleeding man home, learns why he is on the run, and brings him to bed with her son downstairs?  As the author rightly points out in reading notes at the end of the book, fiction wouldn’t be very interesting if every character submitted to some sort of universal moral rule.  But this fundamental question also forces you, as a reader, to understand that people are flawed – sometimes life can be so difficult it’s easier to simply withdraw from it all.  And it takes something extraordinary sometimes to shake you from this.

About midway through this book I became very frustrated as I felt the ending was blindingly clear.  However, I’m glad I persevered as while it was predictable, it had a satisfying roundness to it, the kind of book you close with a sigh, glad to have lived with those people for a short but happy time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *