Under the Influence
By Joyce Maynard
William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062257642, February 23, 2016, 336pp.
The Short of It:
A complex look at friendship and how much you are willing to overlook when happiness is at risk.
The Rest of It:
Divorced and saddened by her current situation, Helen’s decision to drive while under the influence causes her to lose custody of her young son, Ollie. Distraught, she joins Alcoholics Anonymous as an attempt to get her life back on track realizing that she has a long road ahead of her.
Desperate to make a little money, Helen accepts a job serving appetizers at an art gallery party. The party is filled with rich, well-to-do types so it surprises Helen when one of the guests talks to her about art. Ava Havilland is beautiful, well-dressed and in a wheelchair and yet she exudes the type of confidence that Helen lacks. Ava’s husband, Swift is this larger-than-life personality. Together, the two are a force to be reckoned with. Needless to say, Helen is in awe of them and in no time, Ava has taken Helen under her wing by offering her gifts, clothing, inviting her to dinner and even hiring her as a photographer to work on a special project back at the house.
Let me tell you, this story got my blood pressure up in so many ways! There is an element of danger that you simply can’t ignore. Helen is so vulnerable. She’s just lost custody of her son and has trouble making ends meet and in walks this perfect couple and they are more than willing to offer their assistance, but why? There is literally tension on every page and I just loved it.
Surprisingly, Helen is not a likable character. She’s manipulative. She has a lot of faults and doesn’t always make the right choices but at the same time, I could relate to her situation and understand what this couple meant to her even though every piece of me wanted to scream at her and tell her to take her blinders off.
The entire time I was reading, I felt as if I knew what was going to happen but the story took a different turn and although I was glad to be surprised, I found it to be a little convenient and not that realistic.
That said, the ending didn’t affect my love for the book at all because that tension I mentioned is what kept me reading and Maynard digs deep when it comes to alcoholic tendencies and how tempting that one glass of wine can be. Under the Influence would make a great book club pick because there is plenty of good stuff to discuss. This was my third time reading Maynard’s work and I’ve enjoyed reading all of her books. I highly recommend them.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
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