• Count the Ways

  • A Novel
  • By: Joyce Maynard
  • Narrated by: Joyce Maynard
  • Length: 15 hrs and 16 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (478 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In her most ambitious novel to date, New York Times best-selling 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 redheaded 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 young new 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.

©2021 Joyce Maynard (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Count the Ways

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

AA Deeply Felt Story that Sometimes Goes Too Far Afield…

Warning: some potential spoilers ahead: I should preface this review by letting the reader know I am a big fan of Joyce Maynard’s writing and have been for years. I find her memoir “At Home in the World” to be one of the finest of the genre, and not just because it tells the story of her affair with JD Salinger (a topic on which I could say so much but will refrain from doing here.)

This is a very big, very bold saga of a family but more so of a woman, one who bears an uncanny resemblance to the author herself, and while some of the details have been changed, it’s clear that this is predominantly an autobiographical work.

As readers have come to expect from Maynard, the prose itself is clean, crisp, and beautifully written. While in the end I enjoyed the story very much, it feels as if Maynard is trying too hard to be topical, including in one family saga (and one woman’s life) everything from being orphaned, to being sexually “assaulted” (this storyline in particular left me somewhat cold) to marrying a lazy, self-indulgent “artist” who leaves all the parenting AND bread winning to her, a child being transgender, infidelity of the cruelest level of betrayal, divorce, another child with a traumatic brain injury, etc. It ends up being all a bit too much. I found myself at first wondering if the long suffering heroine was EVER going to catch a break, and toward the end wondering if she really deserved one, considering how much of a doormat she had made herself into when it came to her husband and children. I’ve heard Maynard say in several interviews (one that’s included at the end of this audiobook) that she sees this as primarily a novel about forgiveness, yet the people she forgives do nothing to earn that forgiveness - in fact, none of them even ask for it, and while redemption and the ability to be merciful is a wonderful thing, this book seems to ignore the fact that some people don’t warrant it. The last note of the book is clearly supposed to be one that highlights the healing power of forgiveness and how much the main character had apparently learned, but I found myself thinking she had learned nothing and was confusing forgiveness and sympathy with being a whipping post for her husband and children.

On the note of the aforementioned sexual assaults I will simply say this; I realize we are living in an age where everyone seems to have a political opinion on just about everything and that everyone feels free to share their political agenda, “wisdom” and influence on social media. I also realize that the majority of writers are going to be on the left side of that political debate. But I felt the Kavanaugh- like storyline in this book was not only unnecessary (as it added nothing to the plot of the story) it was also only included for the author’s vanity and desire to attack conservatives and right wing ideology. I also felt that it was incredibly misleading…when the “abuse” takes place, the character is 18 years old, is with a boy about her same age, and never once during any of the sexual encounters she has with him does she ever utter the word “No” or “Don’t do that” or “I don’t want to have sex with you.” While I realize that sexual abuse stories can be very complex and there are power dynamics involved, to expect that a young man in the 70’s would have known he was “abusing” her without her ever saying any of those words is a bit unfair, not just to the young man, but also to the countless women who have been victims of sexual assault who DID say No and were not heard.

73 people found this helpful

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Disappointing and tedious

Much dissatisfied me in this novel. I didn’t feel any sympathy for any of the characters. Situations were far fetched and felt contrived.
So little development of problem solving and communication between the characters. Could have been interesting & educational dialogue between Eleanor and her kids about issues such as gender identification, divorce, etc, but we have no specific idea how Eleanor handled those things only seemingly passive withdrawal. Basically there’s no depth to this novel only incidents and tragedies to which Eleanor reacts but we don’t really know her thought processes.
I listened to the end but without much enthusiasm. I wanted Eleanor to stand up for herself. To explain to the kids why the divorce. To explore with Allison her gender issues. To address Cam’s lack of commitment to supporting her and his kids. I guess there’s some value in realizing people with traumatic childhoods have so little insight into dealing with life constructively and maturely. But not what i expected out of this book.

23 people found this helpful

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Struggling to finish

Well written, but so exhausting to hear the sad beaten down Eleanor’s doormat choices. I can’t like any of these characters - even Eleanor. Nothing but angry people, most especially her children who hate her, despite her giving away everything, and never seeming to be capable of standing up for herself in any way. Honestly struggling to finish it because according to other reviews, it won’t get better.

22 people found this helpful

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Count the ways

I bought this book based on the reviews. I tried hard to like the book, but just couldn’t get into it. It’s very slow and boring. Hard to follow and has a political agenda. I couldn’t get past the 5th chapter.

20 people found this helpful

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Let us look back - and count the ways….

I am in my 70’s and I remember thinking how my life might be when I grew up. As in this story when we become adults, get married and ‘make’ children, we think we know what life can be like for them… for us, but there are always surprises we don’t see coming.
This was a beautiful story of what children and their parents experience together, so much joy and always the sorrow that comes with living and growing old together or apart and remembering the love, the joy in so many ways.

19 people found this helpful

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Storm on the horizon

This was incredibly difficult to get through. The story overall was depressing with no light at the end of the tunnel. Extremely long and drawn out I was waiting and waiting for it to come together I can think of at least a dozen other books that I could have read instead of lingering long in the pain of these characters and to no avail. Move on, this one is not worth the time it took to get thru the suffering here.

17 people found this helpful

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Loss on loss on loss

I love this author, but this book’s main character was a doormat, and that’s hard to stomach. I’m also not at all sure why she needed to kill off the first dog. Seems like a lazy plot point. The creative choice now is to let the dog live and show sadness another way. There was plenty of loss in this book without yet another dog death.

13 people found this helpful

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Enthralled and uplifted

Joyce is a master story teller and I agree that in Count the Ways she brings the best of her gifts. Love her delivery here too. Well worth the listen. 👌

10 people found this helpful

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Brutally honest and heart wrenching story

Few novels accurately portray the true complexities of a marriage. This one does. Divorce does not always come about because one or both partners are “bad”. Sometimes our lives shape us into people who live lovingly but misguidedly, ignoring aspects of utmost importance.
Eleanor plods along in her life with little expectation of happiness. The she meets a man, they marry, and together create a family and seemingly idyllic post hippie life on a rural farm in New Hampshire. But the clock is ticking on their happiness and union as their failings as partners to each other - and a horrific turn of events - brings about the dissolution of their marriage. The book’s depiction of Eleanor’s life after divorce is fascinating and compelling. It involves her heart wrenching struggles with her 3 children, her hard fought efforts to become a writer, and her enduring strife to understand herself, mature as a person and ultimately find forgiveness and, if not happiness, at least contentment with her life.
The author reads this story with the perfect pace, tone and moderation.
Well worth the use of a full credit

4 people found this helpful

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My favorite audiobook so far

I loved this book so much I could not stop listening. The main character was so real and relatable, and the narrator fit along with the character well. I loved how this book spanned the lifetime of a family, and illustrated how life’s path can be so different from our initial expectations. Joyce Maynard truly painted a masterpiece here.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-25-21

Raw, honest and heart achingly beautiful

I loved this book. I can’t say it was joyously beautiful, it was real and at times for me heart achingly melancholic with a wish to return to my younger life with my now beautiful adult children and parents themselves as young children. I want to weep but I’m not sad, too much more may ruin this beautifully narrated wonderfully honest book or you. Thank you for writing it Joyce Maynard.
One I will be listening to many times over