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Under the Influence: A Novel Kindle Edition
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''It's a story about the pull of consuming friendships, of seeking to escape into the lives of others, of possession and illusion and you will not be able to put it down until Maynard herself releases you. Utterly captivating.'' --Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of Dare Me and The Fever --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Inside Flap
The New York Times bestselling 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 taking portraits of school children 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.--Wally Lamb --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00MTRRRVC
- Publisher : William Morrow; Reprint edition (February 23, 2016)
- Publication date : February 23, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 802 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 306 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #127,045 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Sometimes we make decisions without reflecting, or we let someone else make decisions for us. Bad parents and bad marriages beat us down enough that we let others take the lead, tell us what to do, take care of us. Helen has made a terrible mistake for which she has lost parental rights. Her determination to regain her son blinds her to the nature and danger of the company she is keeping.
She is in a deep emotional bind as she becomes increasingly enmeshed with Ava and Swift. She has known so little love in her life that she believes they truly care for her, and can’t accept real love when it arrives in the form of Elliot, a caring and decent man. The Havillands’ subtle disparagement and scorn of him causes her to distrust her own feelings.
How many of us have been emotionally seduced by people, or have thought we found love or friendship where it did not exist? How many of us have rejected someone based on false pride or superficial vanity? Under the Influence illuminates the desperation that comes from loss and the impossibility of some choices.
From the beginning, the reader senses Helen’s fragile nature and tendency to ignore her instincts. In her hope that Swift will help her regain custody, she allows her son to be placed in a potentially tragic situation. Telling the truth to the authorities could mean losing him completely. Maybe justice does triumph in the end, but at what cost? Everyone’s lives have been irrevocably changed. Relationships have been severed, seemingly forever.
Then Helen takes a final brave step.
One of Joyce Maynard’s greatest strengths is characterization. Rather than simply painting the Havillands as glamorous villains, she reveals the loneliness and pain beneath their narcissism, particularly Ava’s. Helen is perhaps her most complex heroine, with an unmistakable voice. We experience her grasping for solutions, we see her gradual seduction by Swift and Ava as they charm and flatter her. We can’t help caring for her, even as we deplore her decisions. Human, fallible, and ultimately hopeful, she is as fully realized a character as I’ve encountered in recent years.
In the April issue of The Atlantic, Nicholas Dames quotes President Obama in conversation with the novelist Marilynne Robinson on the most important thing that he has learned from novels: “It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that.” Under the Influence deeply engages the reader's empathy and underscores our need for connection, despite the perils we might encounter. I highly recommend this compelling novel.
This novel is deliciously layered, like a very good Lasagna it provides smooth reading, while ever hinting at the spice and sauciness just below the surface, the layer you wish, fervently, to sink your fork into.
The author creates a very believable world, populated with characters you can identify with and situations, which escalate into cringeworthy events you just know are the exact results of circumstances drawn by the protagonists, you can feel them going there(that nasty space ), even if you aren't able to quiet figure out the details of the outcome in advance. This sense of mystery brewing to a crescendo keeps you flipping the pages without pause. A marvelous sense of pace, which turns seemingly ordinary lives into the stuff of a great fiction novel.
I could not put it down, I challenge you to try.
I spent the first 100 pages outraged by the injustice of Helen losing custody of her son. She had a propensity toward alcoholism, but she drank at night, after her son was asleep. She never drank when she needed to care for him, except for one night, when he got deathly ill with appendicitis. Bad luck, a judge with a personal vendetta against drunk driving, a vindictive ex with a new pregnant wife, and a lack of money are the reasons Helen loses her son completely, even after she goes to AA and stays sober for years.
What also propels the story is a quiet sort of subdued conflict about Helen’s friendship with the wildly wealthy Ava and Swift Havilland. It’s also about lies people tell and the lies we tell ourselves.
I ended up enjoying the book, but I have to say, it’s not a cheerful read. It’s good, and the ending is satisfying, but getting there, I keenly felt the injustice that disproportionately impacts people without financial resources.