Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: Labor Day

There were several suggestions in my book club for books with movies being released this year. Labor Day was on that list and although we didn't select it for our schedule, I ended up putting my name on the library's hold list to read it. I cannot decide if I am glad to have read it or not. It wasn't exactly the type of book I usually go in for. Moreover, the amount of sexual content in the novel was a bit more than I generally appreciate.

The book is written from the perspective of a thirteen year old boy, Henry, who lives with his mother since his father remarried. The father's new wife has a boy close to Henry's age who seems to be everything Henry isn't. Plus, there is a new two year old half-sister. The father is worried about the mother's stability and with good cause. Henry tells the tale of a particular weekend, Labor Day weekend, when he and his mother encounter most unusual circumstances.

While shopping at the grocery store (something the mother rarely does, as she is an extreme recluse), they are approached by a man in need of help. Frank Chambers is a prisoner who has just jumped from a window. He manages to elude the authorities by riding off with Henry and his mother, Adele. In their dire straight of loneliness, relationships are quickly forged with the escaped convict. Henry doesn't quite know how he feels about Frank and Frank's new relationship with his mother. He is a bit worried they will go off and leave him with his father. But, does he have it in him to turn him in to gain the $10,000 reward for assistance in his capture?

The boy provides commentary on his mother's relationship with this stranger as well as his own commentary about girls and sexual relations from his early teenage perspective. Really, so much of the novel was focused on the sexual aspect of everything, when there was a perfectly interesting story line which could have been pursued without muddying the waters with all the sexual fodder. Do I feel better for having read this? No. Was it an intriguing book? Yes, to a certain extent. I did want to find out what would happen in the end. I wanted to know if Frank and Adele would forge their relationship and ride into happiness or if Henry would turn traitor and call the authorities. I think the emotional elements of the tale, the lonely aching woman who meets up with an almost-too-perfect interested stranger, held promise. But, despite the interesting premise, it wasn't a book I feel good about recommending. Now I must decide if I will see the movie, to see how it compares to the book. Will it, too, focus primarily on the sexual aspects of the tale or will it present more of the emotional undercurrent beneath the surface between these interesting characters? I don't know if I'll bother to find out.

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