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a freshly baked apple pie

Labor Day, a book more interesting than the holiday

 

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 in Barnes and Noble book store 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 illustrated 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.

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. 

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 may enjoy some of my other book reviews, find links here.

 

Dr. Aletha, exploring the HEART of books

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 initially sounded like a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with 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.

You can read the prologue of THE BEST OF US .

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

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a middle aged woman and a young woman together

Effective solutions if you experience hair loss

 

My Sister’s Keeper- a novel

I recently enjoyed reading a novel  by Jodi Picoult My Sister’s Keeper ,which touched on  several medical themes including cancer, genetic engineering, organ donation ethics,  and medical autonomy.

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The story is about Kate, an adolescent who as a toddler developed a rare form of leukemia, and has spent the majority of her life either in the hospital getting treatment or recovering from them. After yet another chemotherapy regimen, she has lost her hair.

One day her mother, Sara, offers to take Kate and her younger sister Anna to the mall for a day out. Kate refuses.

“Don’t say it. Don’t tell me that nobody’s going to stare at me, because they will. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter because it does. And don’t tell me I look fine because that’s a lie.” Her eyes, lash-bare, fill with tears. “I’m a freak, Mom. Look at me.”

Sara looks at her and says, “Well, we can fix this.”

“She walks out of the room followed by Kate and Anna. She finds a pair of ancient electric grooming clippers, plugs them in, and cuts a swath right down the middle of her own scalp.

“Mom”, Kate gasps.

With another swipe of the razor, Kate starts to smile. She points out a spot Sara missed. Anna crawls onto Sara’s lap. “Me next,” she begs.”

As Sara later remembers:

“An hour later, we walk through the mall holding hands, a trio of bald girls. We stay for hours. Everywhere we go, heads turn and voices whisper. We are beautiful, times three.”

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photo of book cover by Dr. Aletha

 

Alopecia- hair loss

You’ve known people who lost their hair due to cancer chemotherapy-you may even be that person. The medical term is anagen effluvium, which means hair loss during the anagen, or active phase of hair growth. 65% of people who receive chemotherapy will lose their hair.

Fortunately, anagen effluvium is reversible; the hair usually grows back in 1-6 months. While waiting, sometimes women wear wigs, while others wear colorful scarves and turbans on their heads. And some simply do as  Kate, her mother and sister did- show their heads proudly.

 

Stress and hair loss

Telogen effluvium is similar, except this hair loss occurs during the telogen or resting phase. It is not a myth that stress can cause hair loss. Any type of physical, mental, or emotional stress can cause hair to fall out. Probably the most common stress that precipitates this is pregnancy. Others include

  • surgery,
  • serious illness,
  • disorders of the thyroid, kidneys, or liver,
  • iron or zinc deficiency.

This hair loss is also reversible with the hair usually growing back within 2-6 months after the condition resolves or is treated.

a middle aged woman and a young woman together

Hair loss can occur at any age and with any type of hair. (Lightstock)

 

Genes and gender

The most common type of hair loss in both men and women is considered a “normal physiologic variant”- that being androgenetic alopecia. It tends to run in families, hence the “genetic” connotation. As many as 50% of men and 30%-40% of women may experience hair loss with increasing age.

There are two forms. (click on the links to see an illustration.)

Male pattern hair loss– affects the temples, front, and top of the scalp

Female pattern hair loss– causes diffuse thinning on the top and sides of the scalp

 

Two treatments are approved by the FDA.

Minoxidil- a topical solution applied daily to the scalp, causing increased hair growth within 6-12 months, and is used indefinitely. This is effective for both men and women.

Finasteride is a pill approved for use in men only, if minoxidil does not work. It can have undesirable side effects which limit its use.

Another option for both men and women are hair transplants.

5 people young men and women with arms overlapping their shoulders

Hair loss can happen to men and women,; men may start losing hair as young as 30 years old. (Lightstock)

 

Less common causes of hair loss

Alopecia areata is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. It may resolve spontaneously, or there are several medical therapies that can help. Application of lavender may be helpful.

Trichotillomania results from repeatedly pulling, twisting, or twirling the hair. Treatment is difficult.

Trichorrhexis nodosa results from trauma to the hair, including excessive brushing, tight hairstyles, and use of heat and chemical products on the hair.

What to do if you are losing hair

If you experience unexplained hair loss, see your doctor for an evaluation. It’s best not to assume that it is just a hair issue.

It is especially important to determine if there is some underlying condition, such as a thyroid disorder, that needs treatment.

Consider your family history. Have your grandparents, parents, or siblings experienced hair loss?

Evaluate your lifestyle to see if there are nutritional, traumatic, or stress factors that may contribute to hair loss. Remember, these may have happened as long as 6 months ago.

a smiling woman working on a laptop computer

Tightly braiding hair can lead to damage if done often enough. (Lightstock)

 

Consider the way you care for, style, and wear your hair; do these traumatize your hair frequently or excessively?

 

 

 

 

Arbonne carries  hair care products  that  help keep our hair healthy and attractive.

 

FC5– everyday basic care for all hair types

 

 

 

 

Pure Vibrance- especially for hair that has been colored but any hair type will benefit

 

 

 

 

 

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult was also made into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Joan Cusack.  my sister's keeper- DVD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightstock  photos at this affiliate link 

Cheesy free faith-focused stock photos