Sometimes, a chance meeting between people can feel like fate – the stars aligning to perfection. The sudden collision of souls can birth such beautiful friendship in this manner – but is it always as it seems? Under the Influence, written by seasoned author and New York Times bestseller, Joyce Maynard, introduces readers to Helen: a woman down on her luck in every sense of the word. After having lost custody of her son due to a DUI, Helen juggles dull photography jobs and AA meetings while wandering through her days secluded and alone. Enter the Havilland’s: an older couple filled to the brim with life, joy, love, and compassion for others. Ava and Swift usher Helen into their lives, and soon she finds herself enraptured and ensnared in the glamour of the Havilland household. Everything seems to be going so well, but with a son to win back and a new boyfriend who grows more and more suspicious of the Havillands’ supposed wealth… perhaps things really are too good to be true.
It is difficult to nail down a single flaw in Under the Influence. The only real critique the reviewer could possibly justify is a slow start, which is hardly reason enough to deter any reader from the enjoyment of this novel. Maynard is no stranger to creating work that receives rave reviews; so, it goes without saying that her form and technique are on point for her latest book. There are moments in the text that will cause the readers great frustration, but that can’t really be disputed as that is the exact emotion one is supposed to feel as they read more in to the entanglement of Helen and the Havilland’s. This book is supposed to deal its audience frustration, intensity, and impatience – and Maynard does so beautifully.
Under the Influence is gorgeously written. It is never too heavy-handed with the metaphors and descriptions, but provides enough so that readers will feel as if they are actually present for all the events of the novel. The characters are so real that it feels like one could reach through the pages and touch them. Helen is demure and self-loathing, but resilient in her love for her son and her willingness to turn her life around. She is blinded by the brilliant lifestyle of the Havilland’s, but who wouldn’t be? Her relationship with the older couple is played out perfectly; it is a life of glamour and wealth that anyone would envy and long to be a part of, but from the get go readers will feel the churn in their guts that not all is as it seems. Suspense and suspicion are laced throughout the subtext with each new interaction between Ava and Helen. Not to mention the introduction of Elliot, the man that falls for Helen as her life begins to change. It is worth noting that Elliot is one of the most endearing, kindest characters to grace the pages of literature in a long while.
The book is long and covers a wide range of emotions and events, and though it does have a slow start, once the reader is caught Maynard will have their attention – hook, line, and sinker – until the very last word. Under the Influence is a whirlwind through and through and is not one to be missed.
[signoff predefined=”Social Media Reminder” icon=”facebook”][/signoff]