In the past few weeks I have read so many incredible books, whose prose are so beautiful, and whose plots are so readable that I’m beginning to sound like something of a broken record. Most recently, Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. So intent was I on finishing it, that having read it on the tube my way to work yesterday, forgetting I was running home, that I ran 12k from Chiswick to Clapham holding it wrapped in a plastic bag. And for the second morning running, I woke at 6am to tear through the last few chapters.
Labor Day is set in New Hampshire as a balmy Labor Day weekend approaches. Thirteen year old Henry is shopping with his divorced mother Adele, a one-time dancer who has been single since splitting from Henry father’s many years ago. A delicate character whose fragility is beautifully portrayed, Adele rarely leaves the house, instead choosing to stock up on canned goods to feed herself and her son.
During the trip to the supermarket Frank, an escaped prisoner with a bloody leg, approaches Henry and asks for his help. Adele agrees to take him home and hide him from the police without asking any questions about his conviction, and over the next six days Frank will have a profound effect on the two characters. While an intimate and loving relationship develops between Frank and Adele, Henry, also, is to learn some valuable lessons – from how to bake the perfect peach pie, to the often harrowing consequences of loving someone.
The three main characters are vulnerable in their own way and Maynard has described them exquisitely. The plot is captivating from the first to the last page and it is a truly heart-breaking, beautiful read. While it’s been compared to Atonement and About a Boy – both of which I’ve read and enjoyed – for me, Labor Day is miles ahead of them both.
A poignant tale of love and of loss, Labor Day will remain on my list of books to recommend for many years to come.
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