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Count the Ways: Book summary and reviews of Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

Count the Ways

by Joyce Maynard

Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard X
Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard
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  • Published Jul 2021
    464 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The novel bites off a lot—a Brett Kavanaugh–inspired storyline, a domestic abuse situation, a trans child, Eleanor's career—and manages to resolve them all, in some cases a bit hastily. Maynard creates a world rich and real enough to hold the pain she fills it with." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Sensitively plumbing the complexity of human emotions, of love and forgiveness, [Maynard] draws readers into a deep, aching attachment to her characters, creating an ultimately hopeful tale just right for this moment." - Booklist (starred review)

"Maynard shows her mastery at pulling the heartstrings...Granted, the many side plots start to feel contrived once they're added up...but Maynard does a good job of developing Eleanor, making the perspective she gains over the course of her life feel fully earned. Despite the melodrama, Maynard succeeds at pulling in the reader." - Publishers Weekly

"How did Maynard know that this is exactly the book we all need now? This exhilaratingly brilliant novel isn't just an indelible story of the falling dominoes of a family struggling through crisis and through generations, it's also about the times we live through...This gorgeous story reminds us that love is always, always worth it." - Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and With or Without You

"Joyce Maynard is the queen of the family saga, and Count the Ways is the best! Instantly addicting, the story of Eleanor, Cam, and their children pulls you in and wraps itself around you like an heirloom quilt made of familiarity, intimacy, and the orchestral complexity of loving the people closest to us. This is the novel you'll be longing to return to at the end of every day and one you will re-read for years to come." - Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family

This information about Count the Ways was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cathryn Conroy

This Is a Really Good Book, but Be Prepared: It Will Envelop You in Sadness
Oh, this book is sad. So very, very sad. I was so enveloped in the sadness that when I wasn't reading, I carried it with me. I had to wake up every once in a while and remind myself it was just a book. Not my life. But here's the thing (and this is really important): The writing is so extraordinary and the story so wonderful and the characters so real that the sadness is fine. It's part of the book. And what a book it is!

Written by Joyce Maynard, this is the story of a family from the point of view of the mother, Eleanor. Eleanor grew up an only child in an unhappy family with alcoholic parents. Even though it was the '70s and young women were actively seeking careers over motherhood, all she wanted was to get married and have babies. When this finally happens, Eleanor is ecstatic. She works as an artist and children's book author, while Cam, her red-haired, gorgeous husband, makes wooden bowls to sell at craft fairs. They live on an old and remote farm in New Hampshire where they quickly have three children—two girls and then a boy. Life is sweet. Life is everything that Eleanor ever hoped for…until suddenly Cam does something that results in a tragedy that she can never forgive. As the marriage unravels so do Eleanor's dreams. What does it mean to forgive? To have compassion? To move on? And what happens to those children in all the bitterness and rancor?

The vivid, bold characters are what make this book so wonderful. And while the plot is a gradual unfolding of an entire life of passion, emotion, feelings, and survival it can be slow-moving at times. It is written in envelope structure; that is, the first chapter is actually the beginning of the end of the novel, so it comes full circle. While the ending is sad, there is a sense of redemption—making it perfect.

This is not a happy book. But it is real. And there is power in that. Plus, it's just a really good read that is difficult to put down.

Bonus: On page 439 is the best parenting advice ever. Poetic and oh so real.

Mo hughes

Don’t have a title
I spent a lot of time angry reading this book. The main character is such a martyr. I hope she snaps out of it by end of novel

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Author Information

Joyce Maynard Author Biography

A native of New Hampshire, Joyce Maynard began publishing her stories in magazines when she was thirteen years old. She first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story, "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life," in 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale. Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for the New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose "Domestic Affairs" column appeared in over fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, the New York Times Magazine, and many more. She is a longtime performer with The Moth.

Joyce Maynard is the author of eighteen books, including the New York Times bestselling novels, Labor Day and To Die For (both adapted for film), Under the Influence...

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