Readers will love Joyce Maynard’s Under the Influence about a friendship gone bad. Helen is devoid of family after she loses her husband to divorce and then custody of her son after a night of drinking before she meets the charismatic Havillands who make her feel special. The friendship grows while her son becomes withdrawn and troublesome until Swift and Ava meet him one weekend and totally charm him, too.
“Then came a long. dark time after she cut me out of her world, and the hard reality of that betrayal became—second only to losing custody of my son—the defining fact of my life.”
As life improves for Helen, the reader will question the nature of this friendship and friendship in general. Maynard skillfully places red flags that make this a psychological thriller. Helen meets a suitor, but one not enamored with the Havillands. Why is he suspicious when Helen isn’t? Is the Havilland’s relationship really as it seems? Why are they both so generous with time and favors? Why don’t they like Helen’s beau? Are they jealous or is he really not good enough for her? Why do their opinions become Helen’s? What do the Havilland’s want of Helen? The plot and questions build as the friendship becomes more unbalanced.
The night of Swift Havilland’s sixtieth birthday party will change Helen and her son’s life forever. Will it be for good or for ill? Like the bestseller Labor Day, this page-turner should become a movie, too.