Under the Influence

  • by Joyce Maynard
  • Narrated by Joyce Maynard
  • 9 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling 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 by taking portraits of schoolchildren 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Paper-Thin Caricatures Inhabit PG-13 Morality Tale

I've been a Joyce Maynard fan for years, ever since reading her mesmerizing memoir, At Home in the World. Years after that, on the day J.D. Salinger died, I wrote to her and told her that my first thought when I heard the news was, "I wonder how she is feeling today." She was kind enough to write back and thank me for the sentiment. I've continued to admire her writing, and honestly, if not employed full time at a job that expects me to show up on a regular basis, I'd be hard at work at this moment on my essay for her Tiny House Writers Retreat contest (see author's website for full details).

That's why it pains me to say that this book, although entertaining enough that I saw it through to the end, needed more. More of everything. The one-dimensional characters (heroine lacking any shreds of self-esteem or self-confidence, boring-but-true boyfriend who loves her instantly based on nothing more than her picture, wealthy sex-obsessed villains) lack depth; the predictable storyline (sort of like an adult-themed fairy tale) lacks believability; the book as a whole needed more careful research (into tax law, child custody hearings, police procedures, what kind of wheelchair a paraplegic would have, what kind of vehicle a paraplegic might be able to drive, whether a paraplegic would be able to get herself in and out of a vehicle independently and participate in Pilates). Most of all, more careful EDITING would have been hugely beneficial, because a good editor (or even one's fellow Writer's Workshop participants) would be able to spot plot inconsistencies and unanswered questions, of which there are dozens. Why does the heroine see nothing amiss in the characters of her false friends, who are such glaringly obvious self-obsessed villains? Why does her cautious-to-the-point-of-tediousness boyfriend propose to her so impulsively, after only a few dates, and before he ever gets to know her child? What ever happens to the huge diamond ring when they break up--and for that matter, how do they break up so completely, so instantly, on the occasion of their first and only fight? What finally becomes of ANY of the main characters? We'll never know, although if we'd been told, that might have been a really good story.
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- Gretchen SLP "Avid listener on my daily commute!"

Appearances, words and actions can be deceiving

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Not the audiobook version, but I would recommend the paper copy version. I did not particularly care for Joyce Maynard (also the author) as the narrator.


Any additional comments?

Under the Influence was a book about friendship, choices, unconditional love, karma & sitting back to watch how they all intertwine. At times, I found it difficult to hear how things didn't turn out the way I hoped they would go for Helen, but such is life, I guess.

I listened to this as an audiobook and I am almost 100% sure I would have enjoyed it more on paper. Joyce is the narrator and author and for the most part, I found her difficult to listen to.

Don't you absolutely love when you get to that ending chapter of a book and you find yourself nodding along with the author while wiping tears that are streaming down your face? Me too! This book will certainly give you that moment.

The ending will have you pondering on how much we take people's lives at face value and making you realize nothing is (hardly) ever as it appears to be. Looks and works can be deceiving. Sometimes the friends who you thought were the definition of a true friend turn out to be snakes in the grass and those people who you dismissed for whatever reason truly did want the best for you.

Great book with some really lovely moments, but I would recommend not listening to the audio book.

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- Jessica "Jessica Ashe"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-23-2016
  • Publisher: HarperAudio