Friday, July 16, 2010

You Should Still Read Joyce Maynard

I finished Joyce Maynard's The Good Daughters this morning over breakfast.  Looking up from my kitchen table, I saw two Christmas gifts hanging on the wall: the picture Becky drew of the two of us in Sarasota and the quilt Stacy had knitted, inspired by Leonard Cohen's Anthem.

Tears stood in my eyes; I thanked God for my life.

When fiction is done right, it’s powerful, evocative, simple.  The Good Daughters is amazing, but is it amazing because of how it struck me, or because of the work itself?  That’s always the question, and it can’t be answered because you can only have one first reading.

The Good Daughters was my second foray into Joyce Maynard, after Labor Day made me an instant fan.  I also purchased her memoir At Home in the World some month’s back, but I’ve yet to read it.  I was surprised to learn that Labor Day is Maynard’s tenth book and sixth novel.  Even if I’ve never read a book or an author I can fake it up nice when customers ask, but in ten years of bookselling I had somehow managed to overlook Maynard.  Also, the marketing for Labor Day felt fresh, not like here’s another remarkable (Stunning! Amazing! Gripping! Blah! Blah! Yowza!) work from the genius (Original! One-of-a-Kind! Masterful! Unique! Yawn!) mind of Authorten L. Writerface, but like William-Morrow was suggesting a new voice they knew you’d love.

Reading The Good Daughters scared me the way being in love is scary.  What if we’d never met?  How lousy would my days be without this other person, who makes my life so rich?  As a reader, I wonder how less lovely my literary landscape would be if I’d never picked up a Joyce Maynard novel.

If you need another reason to look for the book when it comes out on August 24th, Maynard thanks local author, Lip Service co-founder, and all-around cool person Andrea Askowitz as an early reader.

I’d love to pull quotes so she can speak for herself, but Maynard doesn’t write that way.  There are lines in this book that are just- oohhh.  Like hearing a gorgeous voice raised in song over a cessation of music, or seeing a powerful actor in that moment when she’s fighting against tears.  I could pull quotes and they would be quite something, but without the rest of the work, you lose too much meaning.  Maynard’s straightforward style is the gradual lapping of waves unearthing an object in the sand which is ultimately revealed as something wrenching and beautiful.

You know I don’t do plot synopsis, either, so we’re left with just this: buy the book and read it. You’ll be glad you did.