My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when 15-year-old Lindy Simpson - free spirit, track star, and belle of the block - experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.
In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and pause-register debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.
©2015 M.O. Walsh (P)2015 Penguin Audio
Unbelievably compelling debut novel. Read it with my book club and we were all blown away and ended up having a great meeting. My only criticism, and it is small, is that the narrator should have had a southern accent.
Say something about yourself!
Another debut novel, and my faith in new authors continues to brighten -- and I say that after(struggling) listening to a story, that was somber from the opening sentence and weighed on me with almost every page. Therefore, I've given a lot of thought about how to approach this review without discouraging a possible reader. What sustains me through a read as difficult as this was is not only a strong story, writing and characters -- all those necessary elements Walsh does keenly -- it's the take away, the message, the lesson, and, while more nuanced than Aesop's moral, the no less present, moral of the story. My Sunshine Away is a story with a very nuanced message, or moral, that is especially relevant and necessary, handled with kid-soft gloves, (you can only see once you look back over what you just read).
Walsh skillfully sets up the listener at the very beginning with the assault, then gorges them with emotions by having you believe the story is being told directly to you by this 15 yr. old neighbor boy considered a suspect. In addition to the opening offense, it may be difficult to hear what teenage boys do behind locked bathroom doors, so bluntly. You'll wonder if the revelation of those raging hormones is necessary...it is to the narrator. Considered a suspect, his story feels confessional, both pleading his case and clearing his conscience.
The rape brings the real and gritty world crashing into the unspoiled neighborhood. Walsh creates a community of children suddenly stripped of their innocence and thrust into the darkest aspects of adulthood. As the days move away from the crime life is compounded with the normal adversities of acne, popularity, divorce, child abuse (one incident of very sad animal abuse).
The author clearly understands the teenage mind and capably balances the naiveté and discovery, but I was constantly struck by Walsh's amazing knack for subtly. His ability to take severe traumatic episodes and delicately weave them into the development of these teens gives the story the slightest bit of tenderness in the maelstrom. It is a captivating read that kept me so in the moment that I didn't do my usual detective-as-you-go. The signs are certainly there--but I told you...Walsh is subtle. I got caught up in the imaginings and suspicions of the teenage sleuth. It's not until the ending of the story that you finally hear who the story is for, and why. The *why* is that saving grace that brings light and hope to the novel. Difficult? Indeed, I almost quit, but with the conclusion, and looking back and taking the story as a whole -- it was remarkable. With so much in the headlines of violence against women and accountability, this is a little novel that slams the point across.
The narration is done well. The flow between chapters itself is sometimes appropriately abrupt and that is made more obvious with an audio production, but no fault of author or narrator, and does not detract from the story. It's not for everyone, but I'm so glad I found this novel and stuck with it. Walsh shows here a talent with some real staying power.
I love Epic Fantasy....have become a Historical Romance fan because I am a sucker for a good Happily Ever After. Good characters are a must
This is a story of my city....my school....my friends....with all the little deep dark secrets I never knew. This book may be about a boy growing up and his perfect world changing before his eyes....but to me it was a story that touched my heart and soul and brought back memories of black smoke rising from my school, milk crates, parties after dances, friends I haven't seen since graduation....memories of a childhood.
The narrator does a good job. He is not perfect but he is still very good.
This book is a mystery...and a coming of age....a little dark....but it's honest. I can't wait for more from M.O. Walsh.
Worth a credit for sure!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and my only criticism is that at time the tangents became distracting and, while they did reflect a realistic pattern of delving in to memories, I would have preferred if they had been edited. If the narrative had been streamlined I think the book would have more impactful to me. That being said, the story is excellent and there are so many themes that are worthy of discussion that there is no way I can do them justice here. I found the author to be very talented and look forward to his upcoming work.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Some books are so piercing, so damn good that one hesitates to write a review, for fear that he cannot do that novel justice by failing to adequately convey the effect on him and how it caused so much self-reflection. But, here goes:
I truly love this book. It is so many things: suspenseful, literary, coming-of-age. And yet, it doesn't fit neatly into one, rather it transcends categorization. It is, most of all, a melody to the evolution of young teen into man, a man of character, of morals, and of responsibility to his children and the women in his life: a real father to his kids, a devoted husband to his wife, a caring son to his mother and a brother grateful for his sisters.
A retrospective traveling the path of progress toward manhood through the burning memories of first love, the pain of losing it, juvenile mistakes and self-doubts, going from innocence to the teen male's idolatry of sex and objectification of females, the protagonist learns life's hard lessons via a host of females and their relationships to the wrong kind of men, including his mother who was abandoned by his adulterous and absent father, his sister who had a penchant for abusive boyfriends, and his first love who was raped and struggled to move on.
This lyrical Louisiana novel was so true to me and so eloquent.
Beautiful writing, suspenseful plot, had that un-putdownable urgency to find out what happened. And the narrator did a very adequate job. BUT why on earth didn't he have a southern accent? You don't set a location in a very specific place with lots of local references and then hire a reader without a trace of an accent from that place! Good grief. Do better next time, whoever-picked-this-reader!
Audible editor and listener. Lover of fiction, thrillers, celebrity memoirs, and quirky teen novels.
Set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the late eighties and early nineties, this rich atmospheric novel unfolds like a mystery. Gripping from the opening line, My Sunshine Away blends beautifully descriptive writing with thrilling suspense. The story comes together through the adolescent memories of the narrator, a neighborhood boy infatuated with Lindy Simpson – the athletic and popular teen that lives down just down his suburban street. Lindy is brutally raped one summer evening, and the narrator happens to be one of the four suspects in the unspeakable crime. With glowing praise from best-selling authors Katheryn Stockett and Anne Rice, this debut novel is not to be missed.
A bit tedious in the middle.
Ending was satisfying.
The descriptions of the neighborhoods in Baton Rouge were enjoyable because I'm from BR and obvously the author is either from or has spent time in BR. The scenes, the traditions, the streets and the stores were identifiable and familiar. The neighborhood is home for me.
I do not. I think the characters are complete.
This book got excellent reviews as a finely nuanced southern novel. I thought it a melodramatic mess and although I generally like this narrator--the husband in Gone Girl, this time he was reduced to petulant whining throughout. The overall experience was a downer story about an unbelievable and unlike able set of characters I only hope I can easily forget.
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