Friday, January 22, 2016

Under the Influence; Joyce Maynard

Under the Influence; Joyce Maynard
William Morrow-2016

Under the Influence is a hard book to review without giving away too much info, but I'll try my best. 

Sometimes when your life begins to spiral out of control,  the sympathetic ear of a new friend may seem like the bright spot in those otherwise dark days.  This was the case for Helen, a 30-something mom of Ollie whose husband has left her for another woman. 

Helen's self-esteem is low, so to feel less anxious she begins to cap off each evening with a glass or two of wine (occasionally a bottle) once Ollie goes to sleep. One evening after polishing off an entire bottle something happens which causes her life to become even sadder and darker.  It is during these dark days that she meets the Havillands, a charismatic couple who seems to love coming to the aid of the underdog.  The couple rescues stray dogs and has even started a foundation for strays as well. 

Ava and Swift Haviland are a wealthy couple with a beautiful home.  Ava, who is in a wheelchair, meets Helen at an art show and quickly draws her into their lives. The Havillands shower Helen with gifts and include her in their circle, even hiring her to do various jobs for them. At times they overstep their bounds and give advice that isn't always in Helens best interest but, with her confidence  so low she often finds herself listening to them and following their lead.  The couple makes Helen feel safe and they have a way of making her feel dependent on them, but what is their motivation, if any?

"Just having a man like Swift speak my name made me feel important. For the first time in my life possibly"

As I quickly turned the pages of this novel, I felt this sense of dread. It felt as if something terrible would soon happen to one of the characters.  I was not expecting the story to play out as it did and, for the most part I was pleased by the way it ended.

Helen is a sympathetic character but, at times she made me mad. She blew off one of her friends and then another one once she fell under the spell of Ava and Swift. The Havillands came across as an off-putting, manipulative couple.  The author, as always, has created situations which felt realistic.  She easily drew me into the story and the world of the characters.  Be sure to try this one.

4.5/5 stars
(eGalley)

27 comments:

  1. As I've mentioned, I'm a fan of Maynard's novels (and columns back in the 80s), so I'm eager to get my hands on this new release! Thanks for keeping your review spoiler-free. I know it can be difficult sometimes. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anyone who has read and enjoyed Maynard in the past will appreciate this book as well.

      Delete
  2. The plot and characters of this sound interesting. I have seen people fall under the sway of another's personally so that aspect of this seems realistic and intriguing to read about.

    Lately I have been thinking about how some authors successfully create atmosphere and how I like it when it is dome so effectively so the sense of dread that you allude to also makes this sound appealing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I measure the success of a story by how well the author has managed to draw me into the story. I do love when I can experience that impending sense of dread as well.

      Delete
  3. I love her work so I'm not surprised to see this is so good. I can't wait to read it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I saw this book the other day while I was perusing Amazon and wondered about it. I've never read anything by this author, but it looks like I need to get to at least this one. It also looks as though I might need to read it at a certain time when my mood can handle it. Is it a deeply emotional book?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't find it emotional but, the first part is a bit sad. You must try her books though so good.

      Delete
  5. She does sound like quite an interesting character.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Terrific review, Diane! This sounds compelling. I haven't read any Maynard novels yet, but I've read some articles she's written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - I do hope you get a chance to try this author.

      Delete
  7. Sounds like a good read. The author sounds familiar but I didn't recognize the two books highlighted on the cover. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonnie, Labor Day, is also a movie --which is really enjoyed as well.

      Delete
  8. I'm very curious to know what's going on with Ava and Swift. Sounds great!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Diane, I am not familiar with this author but that is why I enjoy visiting so much, I learn and find new reads. Thanks so much! Have a great weekend :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's a great author Denise. I hope you try some of her books some time.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for this great review. I have never read any novels by Joyce Maynard, but I have read her memoir "At Home In The World" and it is terrific. She has led quite an amazing life, very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just requested her memoir as another reader told me she also enjoyed it.

      Delete
    2. You'll love it. It really is an illuminating look at her [CRAZY!] relationship with J.D. Salinger.

      Delete
  11. I agree. The novel is very realistic in the way it's written. Nice review.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I liked Labor Day so I'm adding this title to my TBR list. I enjoyed your review, Diane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you will really enjoy this Mary. I loved Labor Day as well (book and movie).

      Delete
  13. I ditto that. I liked Labor Day so probably will like this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the movie Labor Day as well. See it if you haven't already.

      Delete

Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thank again for visiting.

(I apologize for the word verification, spammers spoil it for all sadly.)