It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard.
About the Author
Joyce Maynard is the author of nine previous novels and five books of nonfiction, as well as the syndicated column, “Domestic Affairs.”
Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. Her novels To Die For and Labor Day were both adapted for film. Maynard currently makes her home in New Haven, Connecticut. Follow @joycemaynard on Twitter, Visit joycemaynard.com
About the book
In her most ambitious novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard returns to the themes that are the hallmarks of her most acclaimed work in a mesmerizing story of a family—from the hopeful early days of young marriage to parenthood, divorce, and the costly aftermath that ripples through all their lives Eleanor and Cam meet at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s.
She’s an artist and writer, he makes wooden bowls. Within four years they are parents to three children, two daughters and a redheaded son who fills his pockets with rocks, plays the violin and talks to God. To Eleanor, their New Hampshire farm provides everything she always wanted—summer nights watching Cam’s softball games, snow days by the fire and the annual tradition of making paper boats and cork people to launch in the brook every spring. If Eleanor and Cam don’t make love as often as they used to, they have something that matters more. Their family.
Then comes a terrible accident, caused by Cam’s negligence. Unable to forgive him, Eleanor is consumed by bitterness, losing herself in her life as a mother, while Cam finds solace with a new young partner.
Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. Tracing the course of their lives—through the gender transition of one child and another’s choice to completely break with her mother—Joyce Maynard captures a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in its darkest hours.
A story of holding on and learning to let go, Count the Ways is an achingly beautiful, poignant, and deeply compassionate novel of home, parenthood, love, and forgiveness.
I can imagine this story will resonate in a completely different way with readers, some will experience this as a tale of the complexities of love, relationships and family dynamics. To others it will be the autopsy of a marriage and of family life.
For me it didn’t evoke feelings of love, nostalgia or understanding, but rather very much the opposite. When a relationship has borne the fruits of many years of intimacy, friendship, love, laughter and birth, slowly disintegrates into ashes made up of resentment and disillusionment – the result can be a harrowing picture. Often that picture is lopsided and misinformed, as it is here.
By protecting her children from the truth of their father, which is the correct, therapeutic and socially acceptable thing to do, you run the risk of being at the short end of the stick. History is then written to report of the angry, scorned woman. The woman who left without reason, and the woman who abandoned the status quo. the woman who causes all discontent and problems in the children of said divorce. How utterly unforgivable, which is mirrored in the way her friends and children treat her. I was angry for her. I know women like her who have sat on the truth for decades to protect the emotions of their children, only to be treated with contempt, whilst the husband and father is lifted up on a pedestal. She has a right to own her anger.
Perhaps the clearest image to emerge is the fact that once you have suckled, pampered, taught and raised your children into adulthood and they decide to treat you with disdain for whatever imagined or real ailment they might have or problem they encounter, then perhaps you have served your obligation to them. Indeed there seems to be a 21st century wave of parental blame that encompasses everything a person may feel or do.
I really enjoyed it. I thought Maynard had her finger on the pulse of family, especially when it is redefined involuntarily. She paints an accurate picture of the gender inequality when it comes to being a parent, in situations of divorce and in romantic or sexual relationships as one veers beyond the younger years. It’s an excellent read by an observant and skilled writer.