Under The Influence by Joyce Maynard – 336 pages
Drinking cost Helen her marriage and custody of her seven-year-old son, Ollie. Weekend visits with her son are awkward. He’s drifting away from her, fast. When she meets Ava and Swift Havilland, the vulnerable Helen is instantly enchanted. Wealthy, connected philanthropists, they have their own charity devoted to rescuing dogs. Then Helen meets Elliott, a kind, quiet accountant who offers loyalty and love with none of her newfound friends’ fireworks. Ava and Swift hold out the most seductive gift: their influence and help to regain custody of her son. But the debt Helen owes them is about to come due. With her young son’s future in the balance, Helen must choose between the truth and the friends who have given her everything.
My Review: 4 stars
Under The Influence is an absolute perfect title for this book in which influence, in its many forms, is so much a part of the plot. For most readers, the title will immediately lead you to believe this book is about a DUI, drinking under the influence, and you’d be right. However I promise, it’s about so much more.
This book was selected in my personal book club and there was plenty to discuss. Generational alcoholism, keeping and dropping friends, custody arrangements, being influenced by others and why some are more susceptible to it, letting chances at love pass you by, sex, marriage, mothering, money and so much more.
There is a suspenseful start as we learn right away about Helen, the main protagonist, and her friend Ava who haven’t spoken to each other in over nine years. The pages will flip quickly as the back-story unfolds but please don’t let them turn too fast. Maynard’s writing is beautiful with spot on dialogue, incredibly descriptive emotions and can completely capture a character’s essence.
I must share that I was scheduled to attend an author event in Chicago with Joyce Maynard and up until that point I had only read one book of hers, Labor Day. The event was canceled at the last minute as her now, late husband, had taken a turn for the worse during his battle with cancer. I felt absolutely heartbroken for her, for him, for them, and began to Google to learn more about this author. It was then that I learned about her past in which there are some similarities to the book. I was also surprised to find out she had a relationship with the reclusive J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher In The Rye. I look forward to reading what’s next from this author.
Quotes I liked:
A photograph—once captured—held more power than most people knew.”
-“Love doesn’t always display itself in the obvious ways. Not everybody has to announce to the world all the time how incredible their relationship is. Some people show how they feel by how they behave.”