Nov 26, 2014

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.
But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for. 

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Henry is a thirteen year old boy who's living with his unusual mother. Adele used to be a dancer and she loved life until something tragic happened to her. Henry's father has a new family now and Henry hasn't got the feeling that he's a part of it. He belongs with his mother. She doesn't leave the house very much, sometimes it takes weeks before she even goes out to buy groceries. She tells Henry stories about the past and about life and he patiently listens to everything she has to say. He knows his life isn't standard and that he isn't a great sportsman and thus not very popular, but he doesn't mind. The only thing he wants is for something to happen and his wish does come through when he meets Frank. Frank needs help and Henry and his mother are the people who are giving it to him. Frank teaches Henry a lot of useful things in the few days they are spending together. He changes Adele completely and she finally comes out of her shell again. In the few days before Labor Day Frank makes both the lives of Henry and his mother a lot better. Henry has a lot of very important lessons to learn that summer and some of his actions have grave consequences.
The atmosphere in the house where Henry lives with his mother is tense. Henry has to be the responsible one as his mother clearly isn't able to be there for him in the way she should be. He knows that and because he loves her he accepts her the way she is. His relationship with his father is a difficult one and they aren't very close even though they see each other regularly. Frank understands Henry and Adele which is wonderful. Even though he's got a troubled background Henry and Adele don't judge him and let him tell his own story. I liked that a lot. Labor Day is such a beautiful story with special people in it. They're all broken in some kind of way, which makes them even more interesting. Love plays an important role for every main character, which is such an important message. I also liked seeing into the mind of Henry, it gives the story something extra. I loved this book and am so happy I had the chance to read it. 

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