Under the Influence
by Joyce Maynard

Overview -

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.  Read more...

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More About Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

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.


  • ISBN-13: 9780062257642
  • ISBN-10: 0062257641
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company
  • Publish Date: February 2016
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women
Books > Fiction > Family Life
Books > Fiction > Thrillers - Suspense

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-12-14
  • Reviewer: Staff

In this, her ninth novel, Maynard depicts one womans moral dilemma. Helens 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. Maynards (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. (Feb.)

BookPage Reviews

A couple makes an irresistible offer

For better or worse, Joyce Maynard is best known for her memoir At Home in the World, which chronicled (among other things) a year-long love affair Maynard had with J.D Salinger when she was 18 and the reclusive Catcher in the Rye author was 53. It should be added, however, that Maynard has slowly but surely compiled an impressive body of fiction, including 2009’s Labor Day, which was turned into a 2013 film starring Oscar winners Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. 

Maynard’s latest is the cleverly titled Under the Influence. Helen’s marriage to Dwight, initially exciting, has fallen apart. Then one evening, a habit of drinking too much wine before bed has disastrous consequences: Helen loses custody of her beloved son, Ollie. Having kicked booze, Helen—a photographer who must also do catering service to make extra money—meets and falls under the influence of a glamorous, wealthy “magic couple” named Ava and Swift. They seem to be everything Helen wants to be—and more importantly, they offer to help Helen win back custody of Ollie. 

At times Maynard’s characters are drawn a touch heavy-handed, so that readers are likely to see the looming problems in Helen’s life long before she does. Nevertheless, Maynard deftly portrays Helen’s sense of helplessness and vulnerability as events build to a disturbing climax. Under the Influence is ultimately an absorbing portrait of complex characters confronting real problems.


This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews