This is an unusual story. One might believe that the focus of the story is the tale of an escaped convict and a female recluse who inexplicably find love. However, although there is passion, this is not a passionate love story. It’s about the many facets of love and the role of love in our lives. What makes this concept work is the fact that the narrator is a thirteen-year-old boy who is just beginning to understand the complexities of love. His idea of love is taking care of his mother and encouraging her to leave their house on errands in their small community. The concept of romantic love is just a glimmer on the horizon of Henry’s adolescent mind until that fateful Labor Day weekend.
Henry is beginning to understand that he can never make up for the loss his mother Adele suffered when his father left them. Although he has chosen to live with her and hot his father, he is not equipped to heal her pain. The additional hurt caused by his father’s remarriage and start of a new family has caused his mother to almost completely shut herself away from the world. This isolation means that Henry has become his mother’s sole companion.
Enter into their lives, the desperate escaped convict. At this point the reader expects things to turn dangerous and violent. What unfolds instead is the coming together of two lonely souls. Frank enters Henry and Adele’s lives and proceeds to take care of them both. Henry realizes that this is the adult companionship his mother has been longing for which he could never provide. Although Henry feels some resentment towards Frank, he is pleased that Adele is happy. The advent of their relationship contributes to Henry’s own adolescent awakening.
Unfortunately for Henry, this awakening leads him to meet a girl over Labor Day weekend who is the complete opposite of the selflessness the reader sees in Frank, the convicted murderer. What unfolds is the betrayal of Henry, not by his mother Adele or Frank, but by this other lost soul. This girl who is so caught up in her own hurtful world, she tells Henry that love is only pain and a means of manipulation. This belief about love and life leads her to willingly betray all three of them to ensure her own happiness. Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day is a riveting story of love lost and restored.