Title: Labor Day
Author: Joyce Maynard
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Henry is thirteen years old and is not looking forward to school starting. After all, he is one of the “uncool” kids and is usually marginalized by his peers. When Henry meets a man who asks for his help, he gives it freely. This encounter will change Henry’s life forever.
Labor Day brings up interesting questions of ethics and morality, rendered in Joyce Maynard’s lovely prose. Maynard’s words are spare, echoing the emptiness that Henry feels in his life before Frank, the mystery man, appears and changes everything. Her descriptions are emotional; Maynard really gets into Henry’s head. The reader comes to understand his loneliness and his confusion at Frank’s situation. Henry sees how good Frank makes his life, yet he isn’t sure he wants these changes.
The ethical issues of Labor Day are extremely interesting. Who defines right and wrong? If a person commits a crime with their actions, but their intentions are otherwise, are they still culpable? Maynard also addresses the question of hope – is hope ever useless, or does it always have a purpose? Even if a person knows they are moving towards a horrible end, is it still possible to hope, and is that worth something?
While the premise of Labor Day was a bit unbelievable, Maynard wrote it well. Henry’s vacillation was frustrating, but very realistic. This novel would make an excellent book club pick, as it deals with many relevant issues and will inspire readers to discuss what is within its pages.