By Joyce Menard
Completed August 31, 2011
The last weekend before school started was an unusually hot one for 12-year-old Henry, who lived with his mother, Adele, in a small New Hampshire town. Henry convinced his mother to take him to the store to buy clothes for the next school year – when a stranger approached them, asking for help, blood dripping down his leg and head. When Adele agreed, it marked the beginning of a Labor Day weekend that would forever leave an impression on Henry.
The stranger was Frank Chambers, and he had escaped from jail as he was healing from an appendectomy. Despite his “conman” status, Adele agreed to harbor Frank in her home. Frank proved to be a gentle man – attentive to Adele and Henry, providing a male figure for them both. In the time they were together, Henry became more confident. Frank taught him how to throw a baseball, bake a pie and to pay attention to the little things.
Without spoiling the ending, Frank’s plight ended as one thinks it might, but the conclusion of the book was less predictable. The reader saw Henry as a young man, discovering how he grew from the experiences from that fateful weekend. It’s nice to read a story with a tidy conclusion sometimes, and Menard did a superb job wrapping the story up.
I have not read anything by Joyce Menard before, but I was impressed with her writing style and how she developed Henry’s character. He was all boy – worried about sex, girls, his body and his popularity. Adele, at first, seemed flighty, but as I learned about her experiences, I appreciated her perspective more and more. In sum, Labor Day was the perfect last book of the summer – a good story with memorable characters and hopeful endings. ( )