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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Under the Influence

Under the Influence

Narrator: Joyce Maynard

ASIN: B0195E9746

Publisher: Harper Audio

Publication Date: 2/23/2016

Format: Audio

My Rating: 4 Stars 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.

My Review

Joyce Maynard delivers a timely, poignant, and cautionary tale UNDER THE INFLUENCE ---how ordinary people (victims) --fall under the influence of not only unhealthy addictions, but toxic people, as well. Often outward things which seem to dazzle--socially accepted, can be deadly in many ways. Choose your friendships and relationships wisely—moral values; good versus evil and the masks which deceive. Helen a young divorced mother, of seven-year-old son, Ollie-- a photographer and caterer. She likes her wine, and one night at home after drinking, her son has an emergency and on the way to the hospital; finds herself stopped by the cops for a DUI, and ultimately loses custody of her son. Lost, depressed, and worried her son is slipping away—he is now living with her ex-husband and his new wife. She spends time with a friend she enjoys; however, lonely---soon she meets Ava and Swift Havilland. She is blown away by their rich lifestyle. They take control and soon she is under their spell. She forgets all about her other friend, and uses this couple’s lifestyle and “toys” to dazzle her son. In the meantime, she meets a man via an online dating site. He is boring, an accountant, and a rule follower—Elliott. They hit it off; however, her friends are risk takers and live on the edge, and there is conflict between them. Their opinion influences her, and she begins thinking maybe he is boring, and not cool enough. Helen begins spending all her time with the couple, caught up in their lifestyle. Elliott, thinks something is off with the wealthy philanthropists and their connection to the charity. Helen is put off with his comments and comes to their defense. Ollie, her son is also caught up in Swift’s personality, and soon Helen allows her son to go on a boating outing while she helps Ava prepare for a surprise birthday party. She soon learns, things are not always as they seem. Some people can be damaging. Some toxic people are not always our friends, but use their money, control, and connections for their own selfish reasons. A serious wake up call to many—both young and old. How often do we allow the popular connected people in our lives, pushing aside our true friends for the glamour? The same with alcohol, or other addictions – society and peer pressure has convinced us you need to do certain things to be hip, cool, impressive, accepted—things to satisfy; may often wind up destroying our lives, our health, and damage precious relationships and those close to our hearts. A thought-provoking read ---for all ages, ideal for book clubs and further group discussions. Especially women seeking a partner, with small children. The bad boys, the rich, and the risk takers-- may not make the best friend, partner, or parent. Often the outward appearances are a façade, covering up deeper darker psychological problems. My first book by Maynard --highly impressed—delving into the deep human emotions from all perspectives. (Especially children, who can develop hero worship, and influences). I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author-- very emotional and moving. Fans of Amy Hatvany, Diane Chamberlain, and Jodi Picoult will enjoy the contemporary domestic suspense, the true value of friendship, and the highly charged topics—ones which influence our lives. At the same time, we must be careful who we spend time with (especially those who may be vulnerable). We all have a propensity to imitate the habits and adopt the interest and opinions of our close friends and we inadvertently embrace the values they profess. By choosing whom we take on as friends we are charting our own destiny.

Look forward to reading more from this author!

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About the Author

Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life”, in 1973, when she was a freshman at Yale.

Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in over fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, MORE, Salon, and many more. Her essays have been widely published in collections, and featured in The New York Times. As a fiction writer she has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo.

Maynard is the author of fifteen books, including the novel To Die For and the best-selling memoir, At Home in the World—translated into twelve languages. Her novel, Labor Day, became a motion picture in theaters January 2014, adapted and directed by Jason Reitman, and starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Her latest novel,After Her, was released August 20, 2013.

The mother of three grown children, Maynard has taught at writing programs around the country, and runs workshops in both fiction and memoir at her home in Oakland, California. She also runs workshops at other sites in the US and internationally, including the Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, which she founded in 2002. She performs as a storyteller with The Moth in New York City and with Porchlight in San Francisco. Joyce got married in June 2013, after twenty five years as a single person. Read More







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