It is nearing Labor Day, which means school will be starting up soon for 13 year old Henry.
On a rare trip into town with his mother, who does not like to leave home, their entire life is about to change. While buying things for school in the department store, Henry is approached by a man who has blood on his pants.
The man piques Henry's interest, as nothing much exciting happens in his life. The man needs a ride, he says. Henry leads the man over to meet his mother.
Adele is like a delicate butterfly whose wings have been brushed against a time too many. But, oddly enough, upon meeting this man, she does not seem alarmed. And so Frank goes home with Adele and Henry.
Played out over a four day weekend, in a more innocent time of an earlier era, Henry is the narrator of this compelling novel. He is mesmerized by this man who he knows to have escaped from prison. He knows the authorities are looking for him. That he is considered a dangerous criminal. Yet he believes Frank to be the kindest and gentlest man he's ever met.
And more importantly, fragile Adele abruptly begins to glow. Her butterfly wings begin to flutter. She and Frank are falling in love.
This makes Henry happy in some ways, for he has been the person watching out for Adele's shadowy existence for far too long. On the other hand, he is jealous of this love burgeoning between Frank and Adele.
Frank teaches Henry more about life and being a man in that weekend than his own father ever did. But he is confused by his feelings. And also confused by the sudden happiness his mother begins to feel.
Adele's character comes across as a woman tenuously hanging onto life. Hiding in her house from ghosts she cannot name.
Frank, due to a series of bad luck years ago, ended up in a place he never should have been. Where love is a mere concept far beyond his world inside a prison. Something unlikely to ever happen.
Frank's character is strong yet gentle, and though you know he has lived a hard luck life and been behind bars for a long time, you want him to find love and happiness. For he has not been so hardened by his plight that he cannot show and feel tenderness.
Joyce Maynard, a former New York Times reporter and the author of eight novels and four works of non-fiction, has woven together a story that seems so unlikely, you wonder how she ever imagined it. She has pulled together three characters that she fleshes out so well they almost seem real.
It is a poignant story of a love that seems so unlikely between two people whose paths just happened to cross. A story about damaged people who cannot tread far outside their emotional boundaries.
Though the sudden love these two people find is so improbable, you want very much for it to flourish.
Labor Day will hold you firmly in its grasp until the very last sentence. I did not want it to end.
Labor Day is now a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. And in my opinion, they could not have cast a better set of characters for these roles.
Joyce Maynard also wrote the bestselling memoir, "At Home In The World." She lives in California. To learn more, visit www.joycemaynard.com
Note: I was sent this book to review by William Morrow Publishing Company. I was not compensated in any other way. My review is unbiased and based solely on my own reading experience.