REVIEW: COUNT THE WAYS, BY JOYCE MAYNARD

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.

an interior journey thoughts

I am a big fan of this author and couldn’t wait to dive into Count the Ways. Not only did I love it, I connected with the characters, the story, and felt so many emotions as I read. Even as the last page approached, I didn’t want it to end. And unlike some books, I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to any of them.

Eleanor and Cam were the kind of couple you wanted to root for, but it was apparent from the beginning that there would be no happy ending for them. I didn’t like Cam for the longest time, annoyed with how he played his “fun” dad role, contributing little to the household in money or actual effort. But when tragedy struck, I also wanted Eleanor to find forgiveness so they could continue.

But since that didn’t happen, the biggest loss, in my opinion, was how he let the children see him as the victim in the tale, and this view of events continued throughout.

Our story unfolds over decades and as time passes, the ebb and flow of life itself is shown to the reader, and I felt the sorrow, pain, and joy of their lives together and apart. A brilliant family story that earned 5 stars.

***

10 thoughts on “REVIEW: COUNT THE WAYS, BY JOYCE MAYNARD

    • Thanks, Kathryn, I was on Eleanor’s side throughout, even though I wished she would make decisions that were more to her advantage. Cam did have some good qualities, but they were buried beneath his flaws, IMO. I love the author’s writing and how she brought the characters to life.

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  1. I adored this and found the entire story incredibly moving. I think it has even more appeal to more mature readers who have raised a family already and know the pains and disappointments we’ve faced with whether it be with our partners, children or other curveballs life has thrown at us. That scene where she spent Thanksgiving with the dad and his boys had be in tears. Wonderful story.

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    • Thanks, Diane, I have loved all of Maynard’s books, but this one is probably my favorite! I felt all the emotions of having had those real life experiences, and I think you’re right about mature readers appreciating it even more.

      Maynard’s memoir about the death of her partner (The Best of Us) also had me in tears.

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