The New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day and After Her returns with a provocative, complex, and relentlessly gripping novel about emotional seduction and betrayal. Under the Influence asks: Where do the boundaries of friendship lie? And at what point does generosity become a form of deadly manipulation?
When Helen meets Swift and Ava Havilland at an art gallery opening, her life is at an all-time low. A DUI conviction caused her to lose her driver s license and custody of her eight-year-old son, Oliver. Now she sees Ollie on Saturdays for bowling and laser tag and meals in fast-food restaurants, where his eyes stay glued to the screen of his portable gaming device. He hasn t forgiven his mother for messing up their life. She s got a dead-end job and goes on occasional dates, but spends most evenings at AA meetings. The Havillands change all that.
Ava and Swift are wealthy, charismatic philanthropists passionate animal lovers and passionate lovers of each other, it seems. Their art-filled home is the setting for frequent over-the-top parties. Nobody talks about why Ava s in a wheelchair, but her disability doesn t keep her from bestowing kindness on the homeless and the helpless, and devising elaborate save-the-world projects. Though Ava specializes in rescuing dogs, this time she decides to rescue Helen. We re going to give you a life, she announces.
The Havillands quickly become the center of Helen s world, as she takes on jobs for them and joins their glamorous inner circle dressing in Ava s hand-me-downs, entertaining the couple with stories of disastrous dates, cataloging their art collection, sharing meals and increasingly intimate confidences.
Then Helen meets Elliot a quiet, uncool accountant the Havillands dismiss as boring. Helen might be falling in love with him, but her new best friends disapprove and cause Helen to distrust her own heart.
Most compelling, for Helen, is what her friendship with the Havillands has meant to her relationship with her son. Ollie has fallen under Swift s spell; the lonely boy looks up to the larger-than-life man who treats him like a second son. And Swift has promised Helen the services of a high-powered attorney to help her regain custody.
Then tragedy strikes: Ollie witnesses a devastating accident at the Havillands lake house. Now Helen and Ollie must pay up for the generosity of Helen s new friends. Or pay dearly if they refuse.
Praise for Joyce Maynard
Under the Influence
Tantalizing and seductive. . . . A story about the pull of consuming friendships, of seeking to escape into the lives of others, of possession and illusion. . . . Utterly captivating. Megan Abbott, Edgar Award winning author of Dare Me andThe Fever
A deeply moving novel that sheds necessary light on that sometimes tenuous yet fiercely enduring love between daughters and fathers. ANDRE DUBUS III
The Good Daughters
Maynard s spare prose packs a rich emotional punch. . . . A can t-put-it-down mystery. People
Labor Day is a sexy, page-turning, poignant story told by a sweetly baffled young hero, perhaps the best kind of hero to narrate any tale. JANE HAMILTON, author of Laura Rider s Masterpiece and A Map of the World