Thursday, March 12, 2015

"I know the year is young, but My Sunshine Away is my current favorite novel of 2015." ~Pete
In 1989 Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a teenage girl, Lindy Simpson, is knocked unconscious and sexually assaulted in a neighborhood where these kinds of things didn’t happen. Lindy’s classmate, a boy who loves her to near obsession, tells the story. He finds himself a suspect, which at first is difficult to believe since he seems to be such a wholesome young kid. Yet the more he reveals about himself, sometimes in brutal honesty, the more you realize how hard it would be to rule him out as the perpetrator. But there are other suspects as well: a creepy neighbor man, an older boy frequently running afoul of the law, or perhaps a perfect stranger that’s never to be seen or heard from again.

My Sunshine Away is part coming-of-age story, part mystery, part southern gothic tale. The novel takes you back to the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger and then later the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It begins with the narrator’s tidy world -- all school and Lindy and home. But the sexual assault changes everything, and by and by his and Lindy’s world broadens, police are notified, families are forever changed. For them, innocence -- if that‘s what it really was --disappears forever. Thankfully, adulthood comes with its own surprises.

The narrator thinks back to Lindy Simpson and wonders what became of her. The question of who assaulted her may have been clearer had he not been lost in a hormonal fog. The question of her future cannot be solved unless, by chance, they meet again…

I know the year is young, but My Sunshine Away is my current favorite novel of 2015. I loved how Baton Rouge was described: the heat, the food, the insects, the snakes, the swamps, the old south floral beauty. Portrayals of the family, friends, and neighbors reminded me of a John Irving or Jeffrey Eugenides novel. I felt for a while that I was living in their lives, and I imagine any suburbanite growing up anytime close to that era might feel the same.


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