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Count the Ways

Count the Ways

My literary fiction book of the year - great for book clubs. Don’t be intimidated: “literary” fiction just means universal themes, like crime and punishment (Dostoyevsky) or family life (Anne Tyler) or guilt (Kite Runner). Here, we explore marriage. Meet Eleanor.  When she is just 16, Eleanor's self-involved parents are killed in a car crash. At boarding school, she comforts herself by creating picture books about an orphan who travels the world; these sell to a publisher, and by the time she's a sophomore in college, she has enough money to drop out, drive into the countryside, and buy a farm. WHAT?? This woman is extraordinary, right? Who does that? "It looked like a house where people who loved each other had lived," she thinks as soon as she sees her farm. If you build it, they will come—right? Our girl meets Cam, the handsome, redheaded woodworker who will give her three children they both adore. Eleanor revels in motherhood with every cell of her being, her glue gun, and her pie pan, yet she fears that fate cannot be trusted. Could loving her children too much be her downfall, she worries? Read this one, discuss it too. And feel the classic, universal complexities of lifelong love. - Sandy

In her most ambitious novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard returns to the themes that are the hallmarks of her most acclaimed work in a mesmerizing story of a family--from the hopeful early days of young marriage to parenthood, divorce, and the costly aftermath that ripples through all their lives

Eleanor and Cam meet at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s. She's an artist and writer, he makes wooden bowls. Within four years they are parents to three children, two daughters and a red-headed son who fills his pockets with rocks, plays the violin and talks to God. To Eleanor, their New Hampshire farm provides everything she always wanted--summer nights watching Cam's softball games, snow days by the fire and the annual tradition of making paper boats and cork people to launch in the brook every spring. If Eleanor and Cam don't make love as often as they used to, they have something that matters more. Their family.

Then comes a terrible accident, caused by Cam's negligence. Unable to forgive him, Eleanor is consumed by bitterness, losing herself in her life as a mother, while Cam finds solace with a new young partner.

Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. Tracing the course of their lives--through the gender transition of one child and another's choice to completely break with her mother--Joyce Maynard captures a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in its darkest hours.

A story of holding on and learning to let go, Count the Ways is an achingly beautiful, poignant, and deeply compassionate novel of home, parenthood, love, and forgiveness.

Publication Date: 
July 13, 2021