• Under the Influence

  • A Novel
  • By: Joyce Maynard
  • Narrated by: Joyce Maynard
  • Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (550 ratings)

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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.

©2016 Joyce Maynard (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Under the Influence

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

This book reels you in from the start

This is the first book I've read by author, Joyce Maynard. Overall it was a good book and story. The story focuses primarily on the friendship, unfolding among the 4 main characters. The character development is both rich and detailed. One feels drawn into the storyline almost instantly. While I truly loved the characters, and the excellent narration, by the author, the ending felt lacking. The story is entertaining and it was difficult to put down at times. Ultimately the ending feels less climactic than one might hope for after investing the time and emotional energy absorbing the story.

5 people found this helpful

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

Under The Bad Influence

Joyce Maynard narrates her novel about a woman who's husband divorced her, remarried, and left her depressed. She began drinking and eventually got in an accident and received a DUI. Her ex husband demanded full custody of their son, Ollie.

Missing Ollie terribly, mom (Marny) makes friends with some older folks with lots of money, means, and seemingly kindness and consideration. She begins dating, however her new friends don't really appreciate her new boyfriend. Her new boyfriend, however, finds something fishy with her new friends.

What happens throughout the book shows what too much trust, and ignoring red flags can do to a person.

The book is fairly interesting and it moves quickly and keeps my interest. I wish there was more character depth- the surface characters could have been more complex.

I would recommend this for a someone suspenseful quick read.

3 stars all around

-Wendi

4 people found this helpful

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

Parents make mistakes, hers was a big one...

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I liked this book but still had a few issues with it. It got really slow in places. I found myself wanting to skip to the end of a chapter just so that the story could actually move on to a different subject.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Most interesting was how Helen grew as a mother and as a person. She was so unsure of herself when she met Ava and Swift. By the time the "Lake Tahoe incident" was behind them, she was much stronger, sure of herself and was on the road to being an excellent mother. The least interesting would be too much detail. I know! How can a book have too much detail?! The more the better, right? For me in this book, it sometimes would drag on and on. I usually have favourite characters in a book. This one for me didn't really have any stand out awesome characters other than Estella, the Havilands maid. Scenes toward the end with her had me choked up. She was probably the one really good person in the book. Elliot was also a great person and I didn't have anything against him, he was just bland. Good-hearted but bland. My least favourite characters were Swift and his "I'm above the law and nothing can touch me" son, Cooper. He isn't in the book a whole lot, but he's a scoundrel.

Have you listened to any of Joyce Maynard’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No but I've read To Die For.

Was Under the Influence worth the listening time?

I'd say yes.

Any additional comments?

Some of the characters (most of them actually) are extremely irritating. Helen is a good mother who made a really stupid mistake. She drove her 5 year son to the hospital after drinking a couple of bottles of wine. My first thought was, what an idiot, why not call an ambulance to get them both to the ER? It's not against the law for a single mom to have a few drinks after she's put her child to bed, but driving with them while drunk is. So I can understand why she got into trouble. That being said, her ex-husband, Dwight and his whole family, were the ex and ex in-laws from hell. Then there's Swift and Ava, her "saviours", they grated on my nerves from the very moment they were introduced. They were both condescending, overbearing and snobby. Add loud, obnoxious and no morality and you get Swift. These two definitely gave off the air that if you were in their presence, you were an extremely lucky person. When Helen met the Havilands, she thought her luck was changing! They took her under their wings and she finally felt like she had a real family. But we all know the saying "if something seems too good to be true, it probably is". Hmmm, this is where Helen got really irritating. It's one thing to make friends and have them offer help and guidance, but Helen completely lost what little personality and backbone she had. If the Havilands didn't like her clothes, she dressed like Ava wanted her to, she blew off plans with her one REAL friend (and lost her) because she was so busy sucking up to the Havilands, she lost the only man she'd ever truly loved because the Havilands deemed him (Elliot), not good enough for her. Anything they said went. Now let's talk about her son, Ollie. The kid was a brat. Many, many kids are the product of divorce but they don't act like Ollie did. Helen loved him. She was always so excited to see him but nothing she ever did was good enough for him. That is until she bribed Ollie to stay overnight with her by offering use of the Haviland's big house, pool and their other fun amenities. He only did so to be able to go "see the monkey man" as he called Swift (that in itself was beyond annoying). Swift was not the best influence to have over a child either! In closing, Helen grew on me and grew as a mother. Oh and Ollie? Well, I won't give the WHOLE book away!

4 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Rich people are evil

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Less starkly drawn characgters

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Joyce Maynard?

Maynard has a nice voice but she doesn't do the different voices well enough to get the full mileage out of an audible book.

Any additional comments?

The subtitle of this book should be: Rich People Bad, Poor People Good.
Just about everyone in this book who is successful gets slammed and in the most cliched way. I think a real opportunity was missed to make the character of Eva, who's rich but confined to a wheelchair, more nuanced. Readers who rely upon strong plot lines to keep their attention going will also dislike this book

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

A very moving story, and a cautionary tale as well. There are minor points to criticize ( Helen, the first person narrator, may be a bit too needy and too easily influenced, hence the title of the book), but I felt the emotional pull of the story outweighed the negatives. Joyce Maynard is one of the few authors who is also an excellent narrator. Her voice is perfect for this character-driven book.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Really really good!

The book title caught my eye because of family members under the influence. I kept coming back to it in selecting a new audible. It did not disappoint! I had my EarPods in my ear as much as I could! It is such a good life story!
Her voice is Mesmerizing! She’s good! She should narrate all her books! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟👍

1 person found this helpful

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

Not a mistery or thriller

Not bad but not a mistery or thriller, just a romance / drama so I cannot give a better rate, since it is incorrectly classified

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

meh

I stuck it out until the end....long.and unbelievable-- in the sense that the characters have zero emotional depth. The theme and the plot are interesting, but it is as if everyone in the book has an IQ of about 99, and they act that way. Just flat.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Underwhelming

It was hard bearing witness to Helen's bad choices and her spineless character. The story lacked nuance and surprise. Even Helen's alcoholism was unconvincing. Characters were obvious caricatures. Diverting enough if you are looking for a morality tale that reveals what you probably already know.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-30-21

Loved it

It was even better having the author narrating it. I will be listening again

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