Tag Archives: Joyce Maynard

Review: Count The Ways

Count The Ways

Count The Ways
By Joyce Maynard
William Morrow, 9780062398277, July 13, 2021, 464pp.

The Short of It:

An amazingly heartfelt story about a family.

The Rest of It:

The easiest way to describe Maynard’s newest story is to say that it’s a story about life. The life that you and I know,  have lived or are currently living. As I was reading it, I could relate to different parts of the story as well as different characters as they were walking through it.

At a young age, Eleanor scrimped and saved to buy a farm and the small but lovely house that came along with it. Having some success writing children’s books, she built a small, humble home for herself and when she falls in love with Cam, he immediately becomes her future. The talk of kids and family and raising them on the farm is all that matters to them and so they waste no time. Three children later, Eleanor’s writing career is somewhat on pause due to raising her young children, Eleanor and Cam struggle to make ends meet. Cam? Not concerned. He has what he wants. He’s creating his burl bowls in his workshop and he’s surrounded by his family.

Although the bowls he creates are beautiful, they don’t sell and with Eleanor’s writing career on hold, she slowly begins to resent Cam’s easy going attitude about making, or not making a living. He is the fun parent. Always stepping in to whisk the kids away to the waterfall, or play with them all day long while Eleanor sits in the house trying to come up with new story ideas. During these times, the cracks begin to show. The cracks in their marriage. All is not gold. Is it ever?

This is such a reflective type of read. Eleanor feels every bit of her age as her children grow. The hours spent feeding them, changing their diapers, tending to their every need. It all leaves a mark. At the same time though, it’s exactly what she wanted from life. A home. A family. A loving man to call her husband. As the home life she creates begins to unravel around her, she wonders why she never wanted more for herself.

I loved this story. There is so much to ponder. Especially for me, as my own kids leave this nest we’ve created. I’d turn a page and read something that I’d have to sit with for a little while before moving forward. I’d go to bed thinking about this family, about missed opportunities and about friends and the idea of home and what it means to each of us. This family will stay with  me for a very long time.

Simply put, get yourself a copy. It doesn’t matter if you are married, single, have had kids or not. There is something here for everyone. Highly recommend.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Under the Influence

Under the Influence

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.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.