Book Reviews / Books

Count the Ways Book Review

07.27.21
Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

I have loved Joyce Maynard’s writing ever since I read Labour Day, many moons ago – and remember it fondly as being one of the first books I was sent to review as a book blogger. I since went on to read many of her other books – At Home in the World; which I bought while in London, ahead of attending her memoir writing retreat in Guatemala, Under the Influence; a present from my ex-boyfriend that he bought me from a bookshop in Venice Beach on our one-year anniversary; After Her, which I read while on a long weekend in Byron Bay, and The Best of Us – a book that made me cry ugly, endless, infinite tears while I was home alone at my apartment in North Hollywood. I vividly remember reading – and loving – each of them, and so was overjoyed when Joyce announced that she was working on a new book while sequestered at her home on Lake Atitlan during the beginning of the pandemic.

After a failed attempt to get an advanced copy from the US, my local bookshop in Bondi ordered it in for me, and while I had made a solid list of the books I wanted to get through during July; as soon as my copy arrived, all other books were swiftly moved to the side to make way for Count the Ways, Joyce’s tenth book.

Count the Ways Book Review

There are few writers that grip me in the way that Joyce does. Usually, when I’m reading, however much I love a book, I find it near-impossible to read for more than twenty minutes at a time without checking my phone (for what, Lord knows – it’s a habit I’ve picked up that I loathe beyond words). And, yet, when I was reading Count the Ways, I struggled to tear myself away from it. I was torn between racing through it in a single sitting and savouring it so it would last. In the end I read it over four days – my to-do list thrown by the wayside, my step count dwindling; my phone ignored (thank God) as I was reminded of the unaltered joy of leaving the world behind and losing myself in the pages of a book.

I’ve spoken before about how Joyce’s sense of setting is second to none, and in Count the Ways I was reminded exactly why I love her writing. As a reader I was transported to the New Hampshire farm that forms the backdrop of much of the story, and is as much of a character as the family that lie therein.

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A story about love, marriage, parenting, infidelity, art and forgiveness, Count the Ways is an epic family saga that follows the lives of Eleanor and Cam all the way from their first meeting, through to their blossoming romance onto their child-rearing years and eventually the demise of their relationship, in the wake of a tragedy that shook the family to its very core.

I loved the family, rich with nuances and complexities; I loved the nostalgia that was seamlessly woven through the story, I loved the layered characters and the way in which Joyce portrayed the well-loved farmhouse as a character in and of itself, filled with chaos and laughter and joy, until one day it wasn’t. An ambitious and flawless tale about an imperfect family and their mistakes and wrongdoings; Count the Ways is an evocative saga about love and about loss and about the redemptive power of forgiveness. As with every one of Joyce’s books I’ve read, it’s a tale that I will press into the hands of everyone I can, and one whose power and poignancy I will remember for a long time to come.

Joyce Maynard

Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard Summary

In her most ambitious novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard takes on the story of a family from the hopeful early days of young marriage to parenthood, divorce, and its costly aftermath—to illuminate how the mistakes of parents are passed down through generations to fester, or to be healed.

After falling in love in the last years of the 1970s, Eleanor and Cam follow their dream of raising three children on a New Hampshire farm. Theirs is a seemingly idyllic life of summer softball games and Labor Day cookouts, snow days and skating on the pond. But when a tragic accident permanently injures the family’s youngest child, Eleanor blames Cam. Her inability to forgive him leads to a devastating betrayal: an affair with the family babysitter that brings about the end of their marriage.

Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family—and the many others who make up their world—make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. As we follow the family from the days of illegal abortion and the draft through the early computer age, the Challenger explosion, the AIDS epidemic, the early awakenings of the #MeToo era, and beyond, through the gender transition of one of the children and another’s choice to cease communication with her mother, we witness a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in the face of unanticipated disaster.

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With endearingly flawed characters and a keen eye for detail, Joyce Maynard transforms the territory she knows best—home, family, parenthood, love, and loss—into the stuff of a page-turning thriller. In this achingly beautiful novel, she reminds us how great sorrow and great joy may coexist—and frequently do.

Buy Count the Ways  from Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.

Further Reading

This article on Elle is well worth a read; particularly for the beautiful pictures of Joyce at her home on Lake Atitlan: Joyce Maynard is at home in her world.

Joyce Maynard Author Bio

Joyce Maynard is the author of seven previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, and The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. Maynard’s bestselling novel Labor Day was adapted for film by Academy Award-nominated director Jason Reitman and stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Maynard makes her home in California.

More Joyce Maynard books

The author of many books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel To Die For (in which she also plays the role of Nicole Kidman’s attorney) and the bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, Maynard makes her home in Mill Valley, California. Her novel, The Usual Rules—a story about surviving loss—has been a favorite of book club audiences of all ages, and was chosen by the American Library Association as one of the ten best books for young readers for 2003.

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