Last Friday the movie Labor Day, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, was released.
I first saw the trailer for this movie about a month ago, and I thought, huh, I've always enjoyed Joyce Maynard. Maybe I'll read the novel before the movie comes out. So I did.
The story, not to put too fine a point on it, is ridiculous. A teenage boy, Henry, and his recluse mother, Adele, while out doing some necessary shopping, are abducted by a bleeding man who tells them he has a gun. They take him back to their house, ostensibly to hide out, but while he does so, over the course of the long, hot Labor Day weekend, he gains the affection of both Adele and her son (who eventually learn he has escaped from prison, where he was serving time for a crime that had extenuating circumstances). It ends both tragically and hopefully, with a betrayal that you could see coming from the introduction of a certain character.
But still? I enjoyed it.
I think the crux of the matter is that I just like Joyce Maynard. If you've never heard of her, she's probably most well-known for being one of J.D. Salinger's paramours (an experience she wrote about in her memoir At Home in the World), and for selling his letters to her at auction when, after a divorce and trying to raise three children, she needed the money. She's also a novelist, and has written a YA book (or books, I'm not certain) as well.
Be that all as it may, here's what I like about Joyce. This ridiculous story grew out of an equally (well, in my opinion) ridiculous experience in Maynard's own life, when she started exchanging letters with a prisoner who wrote her some fan mail. You can read that entire story (and I recommend it, it's interesting) here. Maynard's real-life story was not as romantic as the novel she eventually wrote, but I find the whole situation fascinating. Who on earth corresponds with a prisoner, without knowing what he's incarcerated for, when you live by yourself with three kids? And, further, who on earth takes that experience and writes a romantic, ridiculously hopeful and forgiving of human nature, novel about it?
Joyce Maynard, that's who.
At the end of the book, Henry, all grown up and with a daughter of his own, has this to say about how he comforts the baby whenever she cries: "What she will register, at least, will be the fact that she is not alone. And it has been my experience that when you do this--slow down, pay attention, follow the simple instincts of love--a person is likely to respond favorably. It is generally true of babies, and most other people too, perhaps." (p. 241.)
Yeah, I like her. And I liked her sappy novel too. Didn't expect that one, did you?