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Under the Influence
Cover of Under the Influence
Under the Influence
A Novel
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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...
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...
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  • 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.

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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 14, 2015
    In this, her ninth novel, Maynard depicts one woman’s moral dilemma. Helen’s first-person narrative details her adult life and how it spiraled out of control after the divorce from her ex-husband Dwight. Helen was devastated after a drinking bout and a DWI led to the loss of custody of her son, Ollie. While working at an art gallery and barely getting by in San Francisco, Helen meets Ava and Swift Havilland, wealthy philanthropists who take her under their wing as Ava agrees to pay Helen to take pictures of her art collection. Ava and Swift also treat Helen to dinners and give her a glimpse of their everyday privileged existence. And when Helen is at her lowest point with her son, who seems uninterested in spending time with her, Swift treats Ollie like a son, teaching him how to swim. Yet what begins as a seemingly altruistic friendship on the part of the Havillands turns into a quid pro quo when a disastrous accident involves Ollie and Helen, forcing them to tell the police the Havillands’ versions of events or else become victims of their vicious threats. Maynard’s (Labor Day) latest is illuminating and mesmerizing, highlighting not only differing definitions of friendship, but the shades of gray between right and wrong and the lengths to which some will go to protect their self-interest.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2016

    When Ava and Swift Havilland waltz into Helen's life, she's at a low point and is immediately drawn to their easy friendship and overflowing generosity. Instead of worrying about maintaining her sobriety or the mounting lawyer fees for the custody battle with her ex-husband, Helen becomes spellbound by the Havillands' mystique. Ava, confined to a wheelchair, begins relying on Helen for assistance with the couple's charity for dogs, and is in turn an eager confidante. Swift, with his eternal tan and bright, flawless teeth, is charming and larger than life. When Helen introduces her sullen seven-year-old son, Ollie, to Swift during one of her visitation weekends, Ollie is instantly captivated, and Helen envisions a future when she and her son are happily reunited. But all that glitters is not gold, and soon Helen must save herself and her son by turning on the friends who at first saved her. VERDICT Maynard (Labor Day; After Her) quietly portrays Helen's journey of self-discovery in a realistic, plausible way. Her story, though told with great foreboding, is less sinister in the final analysis, but readers will keep reading nonetheless. [See Prepub Alert, 8/24/15.]--Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2015
    With friends like these.... "I had never been inside a house like the Havillands'....There was so much evidence of life in the place--life and warmth. All of it seeming to emanate directly from Ava, as clearly as if the house were a body and she its heart." Helen, a struggling divorcee who's lost custody of her son after a drunken driving arrest, is befriended by a wealthy couple at an art opening where she's working for the caterer. Ava Havilland, who's in a wheelchair due to some mysterious event in the past, takes up Helen with a passion, buying her gifts, bringing her to restaurants, lending her clothes, thoroughly involving her in the elegant social life she shares with her investor husband, Swift. The Havillands begin to fill the miserable vacancy in Helen's days and nights left by the absence of her son, Ollie, and of her old friend Mr. Wine Bottle (she has not had a drink since the night of her arrest). Then, luckily, Ollie's dad begins to allow the boy to spend more time with her. Ollie, too, falls in love with the Havillands and their largesse, particularly with Swift, who gives him hearty doses of the masculine attention he hasn't been getting much of from his own father. " 'Is that guy a superhero or something?' he asked me. 'You could say that, ' I said." But the Havillands' glow is soon to dim. As they undercut Helen's new romance with an accountant they deem a bore, as that very accountant begins to pore through the public records of their dog rescue foundation, as they continually harp on the amazingness of their sex life (to the point that Helen feels compelled to google "paraplegic sex"), it's clear that a very big reversal lies in wait. Maynard's (After Her, 2013, etc.) expert narration and plotting plant the seeds for the explosive events at the end of her tale.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publishers Weekly "Maynard's latest is illuminating and mesmerizing, highlight not only differing definitions of friendship, but the shades of gray between right and wrong and the lengths to which some will go to protect their self-interest."
  • Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of Dare Me and The Fever "My to-do list had umpteen items on it, but I let them all go to hell as I tore through Joyce Maynard's latest page-turner. . . . To-do list? What to-do list? Under the Influence is a riveting read."

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