There are books that open universes up for you. There are books that make you see life differently and make you realize that maybe growing-up is so much more than what meets the eye. It is about decisions, choices and consequences. For me, off-late there was a growing-up book that had that kind of impact the way “My Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh has had and in the truest sense of the word, I cannot even call it just a coming-of-age book when there is so much more to it. Also, let me add here that this is a debut novel that will knock you off your feet.
“My Sunshine Away” is set in the late-eighties in Baton Rouge, in Southern USA. It starts with a crime – the rape of a fifteen year-old girl Lindy Simpson and that is when life changes for the entire town. The idyllic suburbia is no longer what it used to be or what its residents perceived it to be. The narrator of the story was fourteen when the crime took place and he loved Lindy and how the crime and the events that followed changed him completely. The book delves deep into the psychology and limitations of human emotions and what it means to be human more than anything else.
What makes this book so different is the way it is structured. It is not just another coming-of-age story nor is it just another mystery, nor is it just another literary fiction debut. There is to more what meets the eye in this book. There are secrets that people living in every place keep to protect their loved ones. It is a lament to growing-up and innocence lost. There is a lot of guilt laced on the pages of this book, not to forget love in its purest and not-so-purest forms.
The element of the Louisiana mystery is all-pervading and almost delicious as the novel unfolds. It is a part of the story for sure but there is something else to it. The late-eighties and early-nineties nuances are captured to every single detail – the late night conversations to watching a TV show at a designated time to unfolding mysteries about yourself as you grow-up to becoming an adult from a teenager.
M.O Walsh’s prose is biting in most places and so tender in the others. There is a good mix of empathy and cruelty that shines from the pages. The book makes you realize and mull over vulnerability and what safety means. “My Sunshine Away” I think in most ways just holds a mirror to the way we live and how we really are. The book wants to make you believe in so many things nice about life and at the same time makes you see the dark places as well. I for one could not stop turning the pages on this one and highly recommend it to one and all as their next read this summer.