My Sunshine Away
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1989. Life was simpler then. Children played outside much more. Neighbors knew each other far better. The world didn’t seem like quite such a crazy place. But that doesn’t mean bad things didn’t still happen.
One night, under a broken street lamp in the Woodland Hills neighborhood, 15-year-old Lindy Simpson is raped on her way home from track practice. A boy who lives across the street and a couple of doors down is a suspect, along with several others. This unnamed teen will be our narrator, and he will tell us a tale both beautiful and ugly about that summer and the times that followed it.
Teenage boys have rampant hormones, and this guy is no exception. Lindy is the object of all his fantasies. He can’t get her out of his mind. He thinks about her all the time, obsesses about her, really. And he’s troubled by how she changes after. Because there becomes a very distinct difference between Lindy before and Lindy after. To hear him tell it, he wants to help her. That’s the reason for all of his attention, all of his attempts to insinuate himself into her life. He melts when she speaks to him, even when she looks in his direction. But when she pays attention to other boys, touches another kid’s arm, even caresses a piece of paper, it nearly kills him to watch. And watch he does.
"This is a novel that will leave you aching, maybe tearful, definitely smiling and undeniably thoughtful.... I guarantee that MY SUNSHINE AWAY will be remembered as a remarkable, heart-wrenching story. This could be the book of the year."
While that may sound creepy, he is warring with his own emotions. There is virtually no chance he will ever understand how a girl feels following a vicious sexual attack. It appears he wants to try, though. Is it because of guilt? Yes, at least in some respects. But how guilty is this young man? He certainly has thoughts that people could easily misunderstand. His friends think he’s too obvious. And when his mother finds a hidden stash of items under his bed, even she doubts his innocence. Well, boys do like to look at lewd pictures, after all, but this stuff might have other implications.
As our narrator relates what happened and where everyone involved was the night of Lindy’s rape, the reader is treated to a rare glimpse inside an adolescent’s growing pains. Author M.O. Walsh shows how a kid struggling to just relate to his peers at school ends up learning that friends betray confidences. Or that sometimes one’s opinion of a certain uncool guy may need to be rethought. Everyday activities can turn violent, and some outwardly benign adults have a hidden dark side. A party at an absent parent’s house that burgeons out of control may seem almost like a rite of passage, to be expected. Drinking and drugs must be experimented with, just because everyone else is trying them. The simple and complicated logic of youth meets the perplexing realities and heartbreaks of life.
The story unfolds with poignancy and grace, along with deepening mystery, as Lindy heads down a path of self-destruction and her neighbor across the street tries on several of his own personas to counter what happened to the girl he has convinced himself he loves. While his family has its own tragedies to deal with, he remains singularly focused on Lindy. Beyond the gripping mystery, what is most incredible about this book is the wisdom the characters impart, the young and the broken, the smart and the philosophical; even Uncle Barry, who passes through in a few scenes, has some very clever ideas on love that a certain young nephew needed to hear.
This is a novel that will leave you aching, maybe tearful, definitely smiling and undeniably thoughtful. It is comprised of 35 chapters. If you read it for no other reason, do so for Chapter 32, as so much wisdom resides in those six-and-a-half pages. And when you reach the end and discover why our narrator was writing the tale, you’ll experience that wonderful “aha!” moment. I guarantee that MY SUNSHINE AWAY will be remembered as a remarkable, heart-wrenching story. This could be the book of the year.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on February 10, 2015
My Sunshine Away
- Publication Date: April 5, 2016
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- ISBN-10: 0425278107
- ISBN-13: 9780425278109