That's not unusual. Adele doesn't like to leave the house, though Henry wishes they'd get out more. She works at home, selling vitamins over the phone, and hasn't really dated since Henry's dad divorced her. But Henry, who is about to enter the seventh grade, needs a new pair of pants. So Adele decides to go shopping at their local Pricemart.
That's when everything changes for Adele and Henry in Joyce Maynard's "Labor Day," a story so compelling, many readers will finish it in one sitting. And then read it again.
Henry, a budding adolescent, is reading Cosmopolitan magazine while his mother shops when a stranger approaches him. The stranger tells Henry that he needs a ride - to his house. Henry notices the man's pants are bloody. ("I fell out a window," the stranger - who later introduces himself as Frank - explains.)
Other people's mothers would have refused Frank's request on the spot, or at least asked a question or two. But Adele isn't like other people's mothers. She agrees to take him home with them.
It turns out that Frank has escaped from prison. (He jumped out a second-floor hospital window.) He holds Adele hostage, but only briefly - and very tenderly.
Frank is attentive to Adele, plays catch with Henry and even bakes a peach pie. He also finds his way into Adele's heart.
Henry is happy that Frank is in the picture. But when Frank and Adele begin making plans to leave town, Henry assumes that he'll be left behind. ("All this time I'd been picturing how now it would be the three of us together, like when we played catch in the yard, only really, it was going to be the two of them.")
"Labor Day" is a page-turner, from the beginning lines, when Henry describes how his father left him and his mother for a new wife and family, to the final chapters, when Henry is a grown man. Maynard, author of "To Die For," is in top form in this tale of love, betrayal and forgiveness.
By Carol Deegan