Labor Day, a book more interesting than the holiday

Henry, who narrates the story, lives with his divorced mom in a small town. At 13, Henry seems more mature than he should need to be, while his mother Adele seems childish and naive for a grown woman. As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder  if Adele’s eccentric behavior is due to something more than immaturity.

Labor Day

A novel by Joyce Maynard

Most of us don’t expect labor Day weekend to change our lives. As a holiday it doesn’t seem to have a purpose; it doesn’t celebrate or commemorate anything other than the end of summer. We use it as an excuse to take another day off from work and school.

When I saw and purchased the book I didn’t recognize it as the book from which the movie Labor Day was made. I’m glad, because I probably would not have bought it.

I find that reading books after the movie or vice versa is seldom satisfying. Often characters and settings are changed so the storyline is confusing. And invariably the movie version leaves out much of the character development that a writer can express with words. I didn’t feel that way here.  But more about that later.

(There are multiple affiliate links in this post; their use supports this blog.)

 

 

Labor Day-  the characters :a woman, a man, a boy

Henry, who narrates the story, lives with his divorced mom in a small town. At 13, Henry seems more mature than he should need to be, while his mother Adele seems childish and naive for a grown woman. As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder  if Adele’s eccentric behavior is due to something more than immaturity.

Adele and Henry are in their small town store buying clothes for school when a man they don’t know approaches them asking for help. Frank seems nice enough and asking for help might not be a problem except for the fact that is is bleeding, and evasive about why.

He asks Adele to take him to her house and either due to fear or poor judgement, she says yes. Both she and Henry seem to realize that something dramatic is about to change in their lives, but what it is, they can only guess at this point.

LABOR DAY- a book review

Labor Day– the story

As the novel progresses, we learn several story lines.

The main story line, narrated by young Henry, tells what transpires between the three of them over this Labor Day weekend. Weaving throughout are the back stories of what brought them all to this point.

Henry has reached manhood by the end of the book, at which time we learn what happened to these characters years after this memorable Labor Day weekend.

If you want to believe, or already know, that the worst of situations can have a happy ending, the final chapter will please but not surprise you.

Joyce Maynard writes in closing remarks at the end of the book,

“Maybe it’s an impossibly romantic and idealistic story. No doubt ….it would be a very poor idea for a woman to bring home a strange man, as Adele does that Thursday before Labor Day. Perhaps this book should carry a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.”

 

Medical themes addressed in Labor Day are heavily weighted around sexuality so if you are uncomfortable with those this book/movie may not appeal to you.

These topics include

  • Puberty and Adolescent sexuality
  • Adult sexuality, both in and outside of marriage

Other health issues explored in the story include

  • Pregnancy and pregnancy loss
  • Emotional/mental dysfunction
  • Marital dysfunction and divorce
  • Childhood disability
  • Trauma and death

Following their encounter with Frank in the store, young Henry talks about his feelings as Adele drove them home-

“In the seat next to her, I studied my mother’s face, to see if her expression changed, when Frank said these things. I could feel my heart beating, and a tightness in my chest-not fear exactly, but something close, though oddly pleasurable. I had it when my father took Richard and the baby and me, and Marjorie, to Disney World, and we got into our seats on the Space Mountain ride.

Today is my lucky day, Frank said. Yours too, maybe.

I knew right then, things were about to change. We were headed into Space Mountain now, into a dark place where the ground might give way, , and you wouldn’t even be able to tell anymore where this car was taking you.

If this had occurred to my mother, she didn’t let on. She just held the wheel and stared straight ahead same as before, all the way home.”

Ms. Maynard explains that as fiction this novel’s unfolding was

“a rare occasion, where a writer imagines a world in which goodness and honorable behavior might be rewarded and love might carry the day.”

 

 

Labor Day , the movie adaptation by Jason Reitman

Labor Day as a movie starred Kate Winslet as Adele and Josh Brolin as Frank.

Once I started reading the book, I remembered the movie, and cannot imagine any other actress portraying Adele; Ms. Winslet aptly portrayed Adele’s quiet strength as well as her fragility . Young Henry is solidly played by Gattlin Griffith while Tobey Maguire as the adult Henry narrates the story and then appears in the movie’s final scenes. Josh Brolin brought the mysterious stranger to life. (By the way, his father is also an actor, James Brolin, and the singer Barbra Streisand is his step-mother.)

As I mentioned above, the movie sticks faithfully to the novel. The backstories are not developed as much as in the book which is typical with the time limitation of a movie adaptation.

See below for a spoiler alert if you’ve already read/seen the book/movie, or don’t care about learning the ending too soon.

Another unlikely romance

Labor Day  reminded me of another book I read and reviewed, about the relationship between a woman, a man, and a boy. I wish it had a movie version ; another book by the same author does, Pay It Forward. Here is my review of

Say Goodbye for Now. 

exploring the HEART of health in literature 

Thanks for joining me to “celebrate” Labor Day and consider an unconventional  look at life and love in Joyce Maynard’s novel and movie, Labor Day. You can watch the movie on Amazon Prime, which I recently learned I can stream on my television. Another use for technology.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr. Aletha,

an open book with pages folded to make a heart
photo from Lightstock.com, affiliate link

 

A true life romance also from Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard wrote a memoir, THE BEST OF US, about her true life romance which didn’t end as happily as her fictional one did, but did change her life forever. Here is a brief review.

Ms. Maynard’s story started with a failed marriage/bad divorce leaving adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers, followed by a complicated adoption attempt.

Finally we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we as the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As the author admits,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed.

 

 

 

 

Spoiler alert: the following section reveals a major plot of Labor Day

At the book’s end,  Joyce Maynard wrote a final piece, “Don’t Try This at Home-How I Came to Write This Novel”, in which she explains why she chose to make an escaped convicted murderer (Frank) a main character in her novel-

Because she herself once struck up a long distance friendship with a man in prison .

She admits,

“I resemble that impossibly romantic woman who drove a man home with her, feeling no fear for herself or her son-though the man had blood dripping down his leg-because she saw in him something of her own wounded self.”

Her convict story does “not have a happy ending” she says,

“it taught me…to trust less and steer clear of the kind of man whose wounds on the outside may be fewer than those within.”

Here’s her story about that encounter

YOUR FRIEND, ALWAYS

How you should manage a burn injury

Burns are one of the most painful and difficult skin conditions physicians treat. You’ve likely sustained some type of burn yourself, maybe a sunburn, a burn from hot cooking oil, or from accidental contact with open flames. Burns range from minor to life threatening.

This post is the first in a series about skin problems. I frequently see skin rashes, lesions, and trauma in my family medicine practice, and I am a distributor for a skin care product company (see my about page).

Burns are one of the most painful and difficult skin conditions physicians treat. You’ve likely sustained some type of burn yourself, maybe a sunburn, a burn from hot cooking oil, or from accidental contact with open flames. Burns range from minor to life threatening.

HOW YOU SHOULD MANAGE A BURN INJURY-WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

 

How to ensure effective burn recovery

by Jamie Costello (author bio below)

 

Identify burn type and severity

The type of treatment for your burn will depend on the cause and severity. There are different types such as

  • chemical
  • electrical
  • scalding
  • thermal/fire
  • ultraviolet light/sun exposure

In general we identify three levels of burnsfirst, second and third degree, based on how deep into the skin the burn extends. You might have one or all of these from a single injury. Each leads to its own unique problems and thus require varying levels of treatment.

Layers of the Skin diagram
The layers of the skin (epidermis and dermis), as well as an inset with a close-up view of the types of cells in the skin (squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes). Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Don Bliss (Illustrator) This image is in the public domain and can be freely reused. Please credit the source and, where possible, the creator listed above.

 

 

First Degree Burns-superficial (includes sunburn)

Your symptoms may include things such as

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pain
  • skin peeling during healing.

Treatment is simple for these types of burns as a result. It includes

  • soaking or rinsing the wound in cold water,
  • taking over the counter pain relievers as needed
  • apply aloe vera to soothe the skin
  • applying antibiotic ointment
  • Cover with non stick gauze to protect the area.

Fortunately these burns rarely leave scars.

The wellness site  mindbodygreen lists several other uses of aloe vera gel. 

 

Second Degree Burns-partial- thickness

Second-degree burns are typically worse.

Symptoms are similar to first degree but more painful and includes blistering. The blisters usually pop spontaneously or a physician may open them; after opening, the burn will seep fluid, giving the burn a weeping appearance.

It is vital that this type of burn is kept clean and bandaged so as to prevent infection.Since this is now an open wound, it can more easily become contaminated with bacteria. Otherwise, the treatment is typically the same as superficial burns, with added emphasis on keeping it wrapped.

A second-degree burn will typically heal in around three weeks without scarring, though it may leave permanent skin discolouration.

 

Third Degree Burns- full-thickness

A third-degree burn is the most severe type of burn you might experience. These burns cause a waxy colouring, charing, dark brown colouration to the skin, leathery texture, as well as blisters which never develop.

These burns require evaluation in a medical facility, preferably an emergency room, and victims usually are admitted to a specialized burn unit in a hospital. Often there are other traumatic injuries such as bruises and broken bones.

If you do receive third-degree burns, then you will always experience scarring and skin contracture(tightening or shrinking).  A lot of the time the only way to treat this is with surgery, in particular, cosmetic surgery  after the fact.

There are only particular treatments that are available to treat a patient for a burn depending on its severity. A common treatment however is skin graft. This is where skin is removed from one area of the body and transferred to another via a skin cutting tool known as a dermatome.

The recovered area is then dressed and repaired with stitches. This can be an option for patients but it’s important to remember that no matter what procedure is chosen, it can take several weeks to recover. During my time of observing and assisting Gary Ross, a cosmetic surgery specialis, the wellbeing of patients after treating scars was evident and patients were strongly advised that they should care for themselves correctly.

 

 

This link from healthline.com shows graphic photos of burn injuries, use caution.

Burns Gallery

 

man on a beach, his face is red
This man has developed sunburn on his face. Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Possible Complications

The risk of complications for regular burns are relatively slim, but your chances rise much higher if you suffer from a third-degree burn.These often cause excess blood loss leading to shock which may lead to death in extreme cases.

All burns carry the risk of becoming infected due to bacteria entering the broken skin. This is why it is important to keep more severe burns clean and under wraps to avoid serious complications such as sepsis.

Extensive and/or deep burns may eventually require skin grafting.

If you have anything other than a minor superficial burn, you may need vaccination to prevent tetanus infection.  MedicalNewsToday offers this explanation of tetanus.

“Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a serious infection caused by Clostridium tetani. This bacterium produces a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system, leading to stiffness in the muscles.

 

If Clostridium tetani spores are deposited in a wound, the neurotoxin interferes with nerves that control muscle movement.

The infection can cause severe muscle spasms, serious breathing difficulties, and can ultimately be fatal. Although tetanus treatment exists, it is not uniformly effective. The best way to protect against tetanus is to take the vaccine.”

 

 

Minimizing  and dealing with scarring

Burns will always naturally heal over time, but they can leave unseemly scarring behind in their wake. Treating the healed burn with aloe vera and other moisturizing type creams may avoid this. For an added benefit this will also likely help with your pain management.

Burns can be extremely painful, but if you treat them correctly as soon as you receive one you can avoid the worst of the pain and scarring.

  • Assess the severity of your burn
  • Treat with initial basic care as described
  • Get help when needed. for more severe burns.

Otherwise, you may end up with burn complications and scarring that could have been minimized or prevented.

 

Prevention of burns and promoting home safety

Not all burns happen because of fires. Household chemicals, scalding water, and household appliances can also cause burns. Here are some fire and burn prevention and safety tips for your home from familydoctor.org

Preventing burns in your home

 

“Think about how you would get out of your home in a fire emergency. Make a family escape plan and have regular fire drills at home. Designate a meeting place outside your home in case there is a fire.”

a man in a black hoodie tossing a flaming object
Don’t play around with fire! Photo by Henrik Pfitzenmaier on Pexels.com

 

Check out this  First Aid Guide for treating burns at home from skinsight.com

Remember, a third degree and some second degree burns will require professional attention, but here is what to do initially.

Burn First Aid

“It is important to try to assess the seriousness of a burn, which is determined, primarily, by the size of the burn and its depth. When in doubt, treat as a serious burn.”

Be prepared with a  home first aid kit

First aid is important for situations that don’t require a trip to the hospital or emergency room. Besides burns these might be

  • minor cuts and scrapes
  • insect bites and stings
  • bruises
  • minor nose bleed
  • poison ivy rash

Many people put together a first aid kit for home and their car. A well-stocked first aid kit provides you with the supplies you need to be ready for most minor emergencies.

Here are suggestions for putting together a home first aid kit, or you can buy one already put together. It’s important to replace supplies as you use them, and check expiration dates on anything that expires.

First aid kit supply list from familydoctor.org 

 

Kits available from Amazon-affiliate link

Introducing my guest contributor and a final word

I want to thank my guest contributor Jamie Costello.

photo of Jamie Costello
Jamie Costello, medical University student, Manchester, U.K.

 

 

 

 

Jamie is a medical University student based in Manchester, United Kingdom (this is the U.S. equivalent of college). He is originally from Bristol , a town in the South West of England. He plans to go into Medical/Pharmaceutical Research once he completes his University degree.

 

The inspiration and interest to write about this topic came from Jamie’s previous work experience alongside Gary Ross, MBChB, MD, a specialist in cosmetic surgery based in Manchester England.

As part of his college course, Jamie observed multiple patient cases  at the practice. This helped to develop his knowledge of procedures, including the treatment of burns and scars.  Jamie shadowed Mr. (Dr.)  Ross in  procedures, talking with him through each treatment and learning how they were managed, including the benefit and risk of each.

He was impressed with the clinic staff’s attention to the wellbeing of patients and concern that they would continue proper follow up care of their treatments. I believe he learned a great deal that will help him to be successful in his future medical career.

When not studying he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing soccer, and opportunities to meet new people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie and I hope you have learned something useful  from this post . As always, your best source of medical advice is from your own personal physician.

If you have questions about the  seriousness of your injury, seek medical attention immediately. 

Please share this post and follow this blog for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of health.

Dr. Aletha 

 

 

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