"Count the Ways" Reviewed by Pat Sainz
Author Joyce Maynard perfectly captures the joy, the ordinariness, the heartbreak and the resilience of a family evolving in the years between the late 1970s and the beginning of the 21st century.
In a bucolic setting in New Hampshire, Eleanor and Cam raise three children who plan never to leave the small house in which they were born. Surrounding the cottage are waterfalls, swimming holes and 30 acres of forest.
Eleanor, a children’s book author, is without family until she meets Cam, a woodworker who sells his art at county fairs. When they marry and begin their family, their lives echo the mantra repeated often by their daughter, “I love our family.” Although the household takes part in small town sports, school activities, and requisite music lessons, they really revel only in each other.
Small inconveniences begin to infiltrate the perfect family life. Eleanor is the breadwinner and the only one to worry about money. Cam is the “fun” parent, leaving Eleanor to be the disciplinarian.
Eleanor’s body reflects the fact that she has given birth to three children in almost as many years. Cam maintains his Hollywood-handsome looks. Eleanor obsesses over her children at the expense of her attention to Cam and even herself. She is determined that her children never experience the loneliness of her own childhood.
When a tragedy strikes the family and it appears to be a parent’s fault, the small cracks in the marriage and family give way to larger issues. Eleanor is affected most of all. She watches her life unfold in challenging ways she never could have imagined.
In the background of family happenings, milestones are occurring including the moon landing, the Challenger disaster, the computer revolution, social drug use, abortion, the AIDS epidemic and women’s liberation causes. All serve as symbols of the changes that affect Cam, Eleanor and the children.
Readers will relate to many of the events and emotions expressed in this moving, realistic fiction book. There is unexpected resonance in the bittersweet ending that will surprise its audience.
About the Author: Joyce Maynard has published many novels. “To Die For” was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and “Labor Day” was made into a 2013 movie. “At Home in the World” tells of her brief affair with author J.D Salinger in the early 1970s.
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