The New York Times best-selling author of Labor Day and After Her returns with a poignant story about the true meaning - and the true price - of friendship.
Drinking cost Helen her marriage and custody of her seven-year-old son, Ollie. Once an aspiring art photographer, she now makes ends meet by taking portraits of schoolchildren and working for a caterer. Recovering from her addiction, she spends lonely evenings checking out profiles on an online dating site. 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. Their home is filled with fabulous friends, edgy art, and dazzling parties.
Then Helen meets Elliott, a kind, quiet accountant who offers loyalty and love with none of her newfound friends' fireworks. To Swift and Ava, he's boring. But even worse than that, he's unimpressed by them.
As Helen increasingly falls under the Havillands' influence - running errands, doing random chores, questioning her relationship with Elliott - 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.
Ollie witnesses an accident involving Swift, his grown son, and the daughter of the Havillands' housekeeper. With her young son's future in the balance, Helen must choose between the truth and the friends who have given her everything.
©2016 Joyce Maynard (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
Avid listener on my daily commute!
I've been a Joyce Maynard fan for years, ever since reading her mesmerizing memoir, At Home in the World. Years after that, on the day J.D. Salinger died, I wrote to her and told her that my first thought when I heard the news was, "I wonder how she is feeling today." She was kind enough to write back and thank me for the sentiment. I've continued to admire her writing, and honestly, if not employed full time at a job that expects me to show up on a regular basis, I'd be hard at work at this moment on my essay for her Tiny House Writers Retreat contest (see author's website for full details).
That's why it pains me to say that this book, although entertaining enough that I saw it through to the end, needed more. More of everything. The one-dimensional characters (heroine lacking any shreds of self-esteem or self-confidence, boring-but-true boyfriend who loves her instantly based on nothing more than her picture, wealthy sex-obsessed villains) lack depth; the predictable storyline (sort of like an adult-themed fairy tale) lacks believability; the book as a whole needed more careful research (into tax law, child custody hearings, police procedures, what kind of wheelchair a paraplegic would have, what kind of vehicle a paraplegic might be able to drive, whether a paraplegic would be able to get herself in and out of a vehicle independently and participate in Pilates). Most of all, more careful EDITING would have been hugely beneficial, because a good editor (or even one's fellow Writer's Workshop participants) would be able to spot plot inconsistencies and unanswered questions, of which there are dozens. Why does the heroine see nothing amiss in the characters of her false friends, who are such glaringly obvious self-obsessed villains? Why does her cautious-to-the-point-of-tediousness boyfriend propose to her so impulsively, after only a few dates, and before he ever gets to know her child? What ever happens to the huge diamond ring when they break up--and for that matter, how do they break up so completely, so instantly, on the occasion of their first and only fight? What finally becomes of ANY of the main characters? We'll never know, although if we'd been told, that might have been a really good story.
Not the audiobook version, but I would recommend the paper copy version. I did not particularly care for Joyce Maynard (also the author) as the narrator.
Under the Influence was a book about friendship, choices, unconditional love, karma & sitting back to watch how they all intertwine. At times, I found it difficult to hear how things didn't turn out the way I hoped they would go for Helen, but such is life, I guess.
I listened to this as an audiobook and I am almost 100% sure I would have enjoyed it more on paper. Joyce is the narrator and author and for the most part, I found her difficult to listen to.
Don't you absolutely love when you get to that ending chapter of a book and you find yourself nodding along with the author while wiping tears that are streaming down your face? Me too! This book will certainly give you that moment.
The ending will have you pondering on how much we take people's lives at face value and making you realize nothing is (hardly) ever as it appears to be. Looks and works can be deceiving. Sometimes the friends who you thought were the definition of a true friend turn out to be snakes in the grass and those people who you dismissed for whatever reason truly did want the best for you.
Great book with some really lovely moments, but I would recommend not listening to the audio book.
I've been an avid reader (now listener) for as long as I can remember. My motto is so many books - so little time...
This is the first book I've read by author, Joyce Maynard. Overall it was a good book and story. The story focuses primarily on the friendship, unfolding among the 4 main characters. The character development is both rich and detailed. One feels drawn into the storyline almost instantly. While I truly loved the characters, and the excellent narration, by the author, the ending felt lacking. The story is entertaining and it was difficult to put down at times. Ultimately the ending feels less climactic than one might hope for after investing the time and emotional energy absorbing the story.
A very moving story, and a cautionary tale as well. There are minor points to criticize ( Helen, the first person narrator, may be a bit too needy and too easily influenced, hence the title of the book), but I felt the emotional pull of the story outweighed the negatives. Joyce Maynard is one of the few authors who is also an excellent narrator. Her voice is perfect for this character-driven book.
Less starkly drawn characgters
Maynard has a nice voice but she doesn't do the different voices well enough to get the full mileage out of an audible book.
The subtitle of this book should be: Rich People Bad, Poor People Good.
Just about everyone in this book who is successful gets slammed and in the most cliched way. I think a real opportunity was missed to make the character of Eva, who's rich but confined to a wheelchair, more nuanced. Readers who rely upon strong plot lines to keep their attention going will also dislike this book
Highly readable fiction. The author is an excellent narrator. Years ago I gave up on a previous book by the same author. That was Labor Day and I think I found it too hokey. It may have been my mood at the time. I was reluctant to choose another book by Maynard. After hemming and hawing for months, I'm glad I gave this book a chance. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it kept me reading and guessing.
Canadian girl in Kansas, love audible, books on kindle or kindle fire, and old fashioned books! I enjoy fiction most, mostly books with strong female leads. Favourite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb, Pat Conroy, Andre Dubus III, Lisa Genova, many more!
Joyce Maynard narrates her novel about a woman who's husband divorced her, remarried, and left her depressed. She began drinking and eventually got in an accident and received a DUI. Her ex husband demanded full custody of their son, Ollie.
Missing Ollie terribly, mom (Marny) makes friends with some older folks with lots of money, means, and seemingly kindness and consideration. She begins dating, however her new friends don't really appreciate her new boyfriend. Her new boyfriend, however, finds something fishy with her new friends.
What happens throughout the book shows what too much trust, and ignoring red flags can do to a person.
The book is fairly interesting and it moves quickly and keeps my interest. I wish there was more character depth- the surface characters could have been more complex.
I would recommend this for a someone suspenseful quick read.
3 stars all around
I stuck it out until the end....long.and unbelievable-- in the sense that the characters have zero emotional depth. The theme and the plot are interesting, but it is as if everyone in the book has an IQ of about 99, and they act that way. Just flat.
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