Under the Influence: A Novel

Under the Influence: A Novel

by Joyce Maynard

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594891420
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 57,814
Product dimensions: 0.00(w) x 0.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Joyce Maynard is the author of eight previous novels, including To Die For, Labor Day, The Good Daughters, and four books of nonfiction. Her bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in California.

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Under the Influence: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An immature plot, mostly unlikable characters made for a disappointing reading experience .
feather_lashes More than 1 year ago
Remember in middle school, when the popular kid would talk to your friend and suddenly you ceased to exist? Well, in adulthood there are those that never quite grew out of that basking-in-attention phase. Sometimes, you just need to feel special I guess. The main character: Helen has found her people. They are wildly successful, resourceful, influential, fun, generous, and out of everyone else, they have chosen her as their new pet. And like a child eager to please, she is oh so easily influenced by her new besties. But as her wishes start to be dismissed and questionable behavior begins to surface, she is already too dependent on her new friends' promises...and might I mention that she has already burned too many bridges with those that really mattered. Under the Influence is my favorite Joyce Maynard book to date. It offers such a good lesson because Helen's story is not far-fetched. It's about flawed people who place their hopes and dreams in other flawed people who enjoy their place on pedestals like Gods. But you know what they say: If it seems too good to be true... My favorite quote: "Friends. There's a loaded word for you. I know some people when speaking of a particular relationship may say, "We're just friends", as if this were some lesser form or connection to that of lovers or so-called soulmates. But to me, there may be no bond that matters more in the end than friendship, true and enduring friendship."
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Joyce Maynard's fantastic novel Under the Influence is one of those books that grabs your attention right from the beginning and never lets go. It doesn't start flashy, with a grisly murder or great drama, rather we learn that protagonist is moving to a new town with her son when she sees a woman she hasn't seen in ten years. Maynard takes the rest of the novel to share why Helen hasn't seen Ava in ten years and tells us the story of how they came to be friends. Helen was thirty-eight, divorced from her husband and trying to raise her three-year-old son on her own. She had no family to speak of, and she adored her husband's family who took her in and loved her, and then threw her out when her husband left her for another woman. Helen turned to alcohol and when she was frantically driving her son to the hospital with a burst appendix after she had been drinking, the police stopped her and she watched helplessly as her son was taken away in an ambulance while she was taken away in handcuffs. She lost her license and then she lost her son to her ex-husband. She had visitation twice a month for six hours and felt that her life was over. Then she met Ava and Swift, a wealthy couple who made her feel like she was worthy again. Ava was confined to a wheelchair and her husband Swift was a larger-than-life bear of a man, a self-made millionaire who lived life to the fullest. They took Helen in under their wing, inviting her out to dinners, bringing her into their home, and eventually hiring her as a photographer. Helen blossomed with Ava and Swift, and soon her young son Ollie, now eight, was brought into this makeshift family. Ollie was mesmerized by Swift, who acted like a child himself- all id, no superego. Helen also began dating Elliot, an accountant she met through online dating. Elliot was the anti-Swift. He was not flashy, boring even, but Helen and Elliot liked the same things- staying in and watching old movies, trying new restaurants. Ava and Swift did not approve of Elliot; they told Helen he was a dud and not good enough for her. Ollie didn't like Elliot either; he wasn't as exciting or cool as Swift. The title refers not only to Helen's DUI conviction but to the way in which Helen fell under the influence of this golden couple, two people who picked her up when she was at her low point. Why couldn't Elliot understand that? Maynard reveals these characters so slowly and brilliantly, they feel very real. Helen's anguish, loneliness and humiliation at losing her son, the only light in her life, is so visceral, you can feel it vibrate on the page. Her imagery is vivid too, such as her description of Helen's childhood with a mother who didn't love or want her: "I remember a great many bologna sandwiches and granola bars. A Top 40 station playing seventies hits, and the television always on. Old lottery tickets piled on the counter, never the winning number. The smell of marijuana and spilled wine. Stacks of library books under the covers of my bed: the thing that saved me." The story has a sense of foreboding throughout. We know that something happened to destroy Ava and Helen's friendship, we are waiting for it to be revealed. At the end of the book, the Author's Notes share that Elliot (my favorite character) is based on Maynard's husband and it made me wish that everyone had an Elliot in their life as Maynard and Helen did. I read Under the Influence in a few hours, I truly did not want to put
Honolulubelle More than 1 year ago
Favorite Quotes: There is this phenomenon I’ve noticed in the past: the way that, in a vast landscape containing so much visual information seemingly of no significance, your eyes will be drawn to one small odd thing among all the thousands of others – the thing that calls to you, and suddenly, out of everything else your eyes are taking in and disregarding, they’ll focus on this one spot where something doesn’t make sense, or maybe it spells danger, or it just reminds you of a time and place different from this one. And you can’t look away. When I was very young and the other kids in my class would ask where my father was, I made up a story. He was a spy, I told them… Another time – different year, different school – I said my father had drowned in a tragic accident, rescuing American prisoners of war… Later in college, I was simply an orphan, left without family after a plane wreck of which I’d been the sole survivor. The reason that I made up stories about my family was simple. Even when they involved great tragedy, the stories I invented were better – larger, more interesting, more filled with deep and powerful emotion, spectacular devotion and heroic sacrifice, and the promise of great things to come – than the actual details surrounding my origins. I preferred the idea of catastrophe or devastation to the truth, which was the dullest but also the saddest of all: the simple fact that neither of my parents took much of an interest in me. He was like one of those announcers you’d hear on AM radio. Always friendly, always upbeat. At least on the surface. What lay beneath was anybody’s guess, though eventually I’d learn, and when I did, it wasn’t good. I had the sense I’d disappointed her, fallen short of her hopes. As if I was her child, and I was telling her I’d gotten into a program to become a dental assistance, when she’d expected me to be a cardiac surgeon. Loss is one thing. Regret over a loss that might not have happened had one known better is worse. My Review: Being unable to put this stunning and spellbinding story down, I read Under The Influence all day and into the night. I was enthralled, engrossed, and completely captivated. I spent the day in Helen’s head - I was snuggling with her son, meeting her blind dates, taking pictures of schoolchildren, playing in a rich woman’s closet when no one was looking. I cannot recall ever being so thoroughly immersed in a book that also kept me fully engaged throughout. I was devastated when she suffered setbacks and even spoke words aloud begging Helen to open her eyes and see the treasure she had in Elliot before it was too late. The storyline was relevant, poignant, active, emotive, evocative, ingeniously paced and artfully written from a first person POV in a confessional and emotionally purging manner. Ms. Maynard is a gifted wordsmith; keenly observant, and frightfully insightful as she deftly tucks in those surprising little touches that make a tale so endearingly moving and steal your breath.
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
Original review @ 125Pages.com I have, of course, heard of Joyce Maynard before, but have never read a book she has written. When I saw Under the Influence, I was excited to finally get a chance to read one of her books. And I am glad I did. At the heart of the tale is Helen, a down on her luck divorced mother, who loses custody of her son after a DUI. At the lowest point of her life, in comes a couple, Ava and Swift, and they bring the companionship and personal bond she has been searching for. Helen’s life is now seemingly complete and her new friends run every aspect of her days. Even after she meets a man who is perfect for her, the disapproval of her friends makes her turn away. Then her son becomes enamored with Swift and in one instance everything Helen has fought for could be gone. Joyce Maynard is a bestseller for a reason. Her writing is crisp and she can pack a lot of emotion in a few words. She can insert you into a character’s mind with ease and you feel like you know and understand them. The pacing had some parts that dragged a little, but they were quickly absorbed into the rest of the story. The world created was real, Helen lived a very real life, and while Swift and Ava were decidedly over the top, they fit in their roles perfectly. The characters were the highlight. Helen ebbed from manic highs to tragic lows in her life and we are able to sit front row center for them. Swift and Ava were perfectly crafted in their oddity and you could sense the undercurrent of just not right in them. Under the Influence is a one sitting read in the best of ways. Quick and sharp, it was a definite page turner. I enjoyed the story and the writing, and suggest you go get a copy of Under the Influence for yourself. I am happy I finally got the chance to experience Maynard for myself and will now check and see what other books of hers my library has. I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
beh88 More than 1 year ago
Outstanding!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Buy it very had to pur down