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Under the Influence

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  6,932 ratings  ·  862 reviews
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 add
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by William Morrow
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Julie Gatti Yes. I want to believe in a happy ending and I believe his investigation, which clearly continued long after the demise of their relationship, was pro…moreYes. I want to believe in a happy ending and I believe his investigation, which clearly continued long after the demise of their relationship, was proof that his commitment to her and Ollie never died. Shouldn't this question have a spoiler alert? (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Robert Blumenthal I don't remember Ava getting indicted, only Swift and his son Cooper. The maid Estrella did confide in Helen that Ava had always hated Swift and was j…moreI don't remember Ava getting indicted, only Swift and his son Cooper. The maid Estrella did confide in Helen that Ava had always hated Swift and was just putting on an act pretending to be his loving and adoring wife.(less)

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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  6,932 ratings  ·  862 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
UPDATE: $1.99 kindle special. — PAGE TURNING contemporary NOVEL - takes place in the SF Bay Area

Update: With sad news....
Joyce Maynard's husband died on June 16th. Jim had pancreatic cancer. He fought a very brave battle for almost 2 years.
My heart goes out to Joyce. Joyce has been sharing touching memories of she and Jim from the days when they first met.

The song "Book of Love" by Peter Gabriel, was sung at their wedding Joyce's assistant and extra daughter --which says just how she
Diane S ☔
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
From the beginning this novel has an insidious tone of a disaster waiting to happen. Well written with a beguiling and mixed cast of characters, they represent many of the people we meet in our actual lives. A young mother who loses custody of her son and is struggling emotionally and financially. A wealthy couple who offer her friendship and support. A young boy trying to find his way between two homes and a man who wants to be part of Helen's life but is stymied by her new friendship.

What is
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Life is hectic now. I'm traveling every other week for work. I start a book, I'm gone for a week, come back and I can't remember what I read. I just needed something comforting and soothing that would relax me. I immediately turned to Joyce Maynard and didn't look back. I just love her books. Every time I finish a book of hers, I want to dive right into the next one. But I need to pace myself as each one I read, I think...that is one less for me to discover.

Under the Influence tells the story o
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it

As a child, Helen made up stories about her the two people responsible for her birth – her parents. Her father more often, where he was, what he did for a living. She viewed her home as a kind of hell; anyplace was better than there. Reading was her only solace.

Stacks of library books under the covers of my bed: the thing that saved me.

She grows older, wants only to not be like her parents; with no idea what she really does want. Falling in love. Falling for the illusion of love, she learns abo
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ew
Under the Influence got my attention from the beginning, and then it kept me reading – with an impending sense of dread. From the beginning, we know that something bad has happened in Helen’s life, and that it involves her former friend Ava. Helen catches a glimpse of Ada at an intersection. Helen hasn’t seen Ada for 10 years, but this sighting sets her off to recall the events leading up to the breakup of their friendship. Helen met Ada at a particularly low time in her life – she had recently ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very, very good book. I enjoyed it because the characters were so relatable - which is something I really value in a book. I was so invested in finding out what was going to happen. I hated having to go to work because that meant I couldn't read! That is a true sign of a wonderful book. This was the first book I've read by Joyce Maynard, and it won't be my last! I give this book a 4.5/5! Perfect book for a book club, as well!
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The only information that I had about Joyce Maynard before reading this novel was that she previously had an affair with J. D. Salinger. I’m glad that I decided to see if she could also write because I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

The story unspools slowly in the beginning; and, I became a bit impatient waiting for an epiphany moment from Helen that should cause her to rethink her choice of friends.

It was a great audio…an immersive, all consuming read. I plan to check out other novels by this
Cathrine ☯️
Wow, I am so stoked. I was under the influence from page one and forty-eight hours later it’s over. I want more. My only interaction with this author was the movie version of her Labor Day which my two besties and I really liked (which probably means that the book must be awesome).
Her very skillful and subtle writing mesmerized me. Each page was like a strand on a spider’s web under construction. There’s this building fascination as you watch it coming together and then you realize you’re c
If you’re looking for the story about a helpless boozer loser, look elsewhere. Me? I like a good story about a down-and-outer, and given the title (which is what drew me in), I was surprised to see that drinking wasn’t the theme. I kept waiting for booze to take over the plot, but it didn’t. (So in a sick way, I was sort of disappointed.) The evils of alcohol do play a role, but it’s not the focus. For Helen, her drug of choice is a rich, charismatic woman who pays unending attention to her. Thi ...more
Remember in middle school, when the popular kid would talk to your friend and suddenly you ceased to exist? Well, in adulthood there are those that never quite grew out of that basking-in-attention phase. Sometimes, you just need to feel special I guess. The main character: Helen has found her people. They are wildly successful, resourceful, influential, fun, generous, and out of everyone else, they have chosen her as their rescued pet so to speak. And like a child eager to please, she is oh so ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ve been on a bit of a roll with Joyce Maynard she’s a firm audio favourite, I find her storytelling easy to digest and find my concentration doesn’t waver at all while listening, she’s got such a hypnotic voice. The way she portrays her characters they feel so authentic, so realistic in her dialogue and scenarios you can really feel the book played out visually. The story builds slow which is characteristic of Maynard but it never feels dull, you become part of the story as it slowly unfolds a ...more
Oct 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Under the Influence is the second Maynard (audio)book I read, and as you can see from my rating, I enjoyed it a great deal.

The delivery was superb, I was immersed in the very realistic story from the very beginning.

Helen loses custody of her son, because of driving under the influence. She immediately changes her ways, goes through the motions to prove that she's worthy of having her son back. But things take time.

Desperately lonely, she's taken under the wing by a rich couple, Ava and Swift H
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pulpy, fiction
I feel terrible for saying this about a New York Times bestselling author, but this book was GOD AWFUL. It had a soap opera-y quality that would be best expressed not in book form, but as the screenplay for a Lifetime movie, if we're being totally honest here.

Where to start? Apparently I'm in the minority here with my opinion, judging by the number of 4 and 5-star reviews that I'm seeing on Goodreads, however, unless this woman is an acquired taste—like a single malt scotch that tastes revoltin
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Very interesting read with a lot to think about. Group read for May, so I will wait and post my review later.

Helen is under the influence. She is under the influence of alcohol in the beginning of the story, and that causes her some serious problems, but she then falls under the influence of two people with money and possessions and a lifestyle that she wants, and that almost costs her everything. Its a complicated story about self-respect (or lack thereof), about parental responsibility, about
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
5 ++++ Stars ⭐️ wow!!! That’s all I can say right now . . . This is my first Joyce Maynard book . It won’t be my last. The writing is absolutely spell binding, an exquisitely woven character driven story.

I’ll add more later but right now I just need to savor and digest an array of mixed emotions. I’m sad that I finished this book in 3 days but excited I have several other Joyce Maynard books yet to read . . .

Ironically, Elliot reminds me so much of my husband, also an accountant, for whom I met
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Loved the first person point of view. The title was very crafty. It has two different meanings in this book. Author read the book for the audio version and was fabulous. Addictive read. This is not really a suspense book but there's the underlying tone that something is not right with these characters.
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Starting a little slow, the pace picked up quickly enough. I thought this may be literary fiction, but I could not put this down, finishing very quickly on route to my annual beach summer holiday. Joyce Maynard writes like a natural – characters I got to know intimately (and quickly) – and how well does she get you to love/hate some of them!

Helen is a single mum hard on her luck after divorcing her husband and receives a DUI. Being pulled over whilst taking her son to emergency for appendicitis
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Under the Influence is story of love, friendship, loss, and betrayal - and the lengths one will go to to be accepted and approved of.

I am not often drawn into a book from the first few pages, but the story pulled me in right away and kept me engrossed to the end. The novel is wonderfully written and well-paced throughout. I, also, loved the eclectic group of characters.

4.5 *
Sep 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
So this was my first ever complete audiobook! I have never been able to listen to audiobooks. I've started a few in the past but never got more than a few chapters in before I just couldn't handle the narrator trying to do multiple characters in dialogue. It just didn't work.

I got a great recommendation from a GR friend to try a Joyce Maynard book for audio because there is a lot narration and less dialogue. It was indeed a great recommendation for me - truly like having someone tell me a story.
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Somewhere between 4 & 5 stars. Really good.

I loved that Joyce Maynard narrated this herself, and she has a wonderful voice with which to do so. I loved the story: The main character is a divorcee with an 8 year old. Late one night after drinking too much wine, at home, alone, her son becomes ill and she gets a DUI en route to the hospital. That one thing causes her husband to fight for, and win, legal custody. But that isn't what the title is referring to. No, she falls under the influence of a
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Probably closer to a 4.5 stars
From the beginning of this tightly plotted story there's an impending sense of doom. The book starts off when Helen glimpses Ava in the back of a taxi. Ava is an old friend that she hasn't seen in years and the sighting sends her down memory lane to the events that led to the end of their friendship.

Helen was a lost soul when she met Ava. She was badly parented, divorced, and had recently lost custody of her young son. Ava and Swift are wealthy philanthropists who t
Judy D Collins
Joyce Maynard delivers a timely, poignant, and cautionary tale UNDER THE INFLUENCE ---how ordinary people (victims) --fall under the influence of not only unhealthy addictions, but toxic people, as well. Often outward things which seem to dazzle--socially accepted, can be deadly in many ways.

Choose your friendships and relationships wisely—moral values; good versus evil and the masks which deceive.

Helen a young divorced mother, of seven-year-old son, Ollie-- a photographer and caterer. She
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story about love, family, and friendship. I was so immersed in the story that when it ended I screamed. I'm still living in it even though I've started another.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-i-own
I went into this a bit blind. I knew it was the story of a woman who'd had some trouble with alcohol and becomes friends with a wealthy couple. I figured the story had more to do with being "under the influence" of alcohol but it is more of being "under the influence" of her wealthy friends. I'm sorry but I felt Helen was way too weak minded. Too easily influenced. That being said, the book did keep me turning the pages (after a bit of a slow start) because I knew the friendship would not end we ...more
Theresa Alan
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is about toxic relationships—with friends and with husbands who become ex-husbands.

I spent the first 100 pages outraged by the injustice of Helen losing custody of her son. She had a propensity toward alcoholism, but she drank at night, after her son was asleep. She never drank when she needed to care for him, except for one night, when he got deathly ill with appendicitis. Bad luck, a judge with a personal vendetta against drunk driving, a vindictive ex with a new pregnant wife, and a
Feb 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Full disclosure: I read the first 120 pages and then skimmed the rest. This book was a complete disaster. I said more in my previous updates about it, but it never got better. The author didn't even bother to keep details straight or consistent throughout the book. It was like she mixed up parts from different drafts and that's what ended up being published.
This was very lazy writing by such a talented writer. This may be what has me give up on any future books by her.
Dan Radovich
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
What more to say except it is written by Joyce Maynard - one of best contemporary writers working these days. Honesty. One word that can be used for all of her works. The characters are real people caught in real circumstances, no need to manufacture any outlandish catastrophe for the sake of suspense. In Maynard's ,most capable hands are stories you relate to and characters you care about. Helen is far from perfect and her struggle to get her life back in order is played out in near perfect pro ...more
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: available
4.5 This was wonderful in audio format. It is very unusual for me to just stand and listen to an audio book, but that is how much I wanted to know-"and then what happened". As Carol said in her review it really was an "immersive, all consuming" listen. Read Carol's entire review, as well as the real reviews written by Diane S, Jennifer, and Crumb.

aPriL does feral sometimes

Brilliant, excellent, thought-provoking! 'Under the Influence' deserves an award. This is a tightly focused literary exploration of mainly six characters, and others, too, fed to the reader with a huge delightful dollop of an entertaining story on top.

Helen, the contrite narrator, made a lot of mistakes in the previous decade. Now, ten years later, she wants to talk about it, and I, gentle reader, am so happy she is in a confessional mood. I intend to buy a copy of this novel (I read a library l
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Joyce Maynard first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story “An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life” in 1973, 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 more than fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR ...more

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