SHINE SHINE SHINE, debut novel by Lydia Netzer. Here is a description of the book taken from the author's website:
Sunny Mann has masterminded a life for herself and her family in a quiet Virginia town. Her house and her friends are picture-perfect. Even her genius husband, Maxon, has been trained to pass for normal. But when a fender bender on an average day sends her coiffed blonde wig sailing out the window, her secret is exposed. Not only is she bald, Sunny is nothing like the Stepford wife she's trying to be. As her facade begins to unravel, we discover the singular world of Sunny, an everywoman searching for the perfect life, and Maxon, an astronaut on his way to colonize the moon.
I can honestly say, I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I'd been hearing so much praise of Lydia Netzer from other writers that I respect and like, so I my curiosity was more than piqued.
The originality of this quirky story is what really stood out for me. Sunny is a woman who wants only to be accepted in the world she lives in and to provide a seemingly perfect role model for others. Sure, that is nothing that hasn't been written about before, but Netzer throws in some unique details and history of her characters that you don't read about every day. Firstly, Sunny was born in Burma, and with a rare condition that left her completely bald. Not many of us, especially women, can relate to that or appreciate how difficult that must be, especially if you desperately don't want people to know. Secondly, Sunny's husband is an astronaut with a genius IQ. How many of us can say that?! She also has a special needs son and is pregnant with her second child whom she hopes is born normal. Needless so say, Sunny has a lot on her plate. I found the story very entertaining, especially Sunny's interactions with her neighbor, the local news anchor, along with Maxon's job of going to the moon in hopes of colonizing it and leaving Sunny behind to handle daily life here on Earth.
Netzer does a great job of creating supporting characters that add to the story and explain how Sunny and Maxon met and fell in love. Theirs is certainly not your typical love story. Though Sunny's mom is in the hospital for all of the book, she is still a huge part of the story. Their son, Bubber, is one of my favorite characters. He is so endearing and though I don't think it is every stated directly, he is Autistic.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Sunny makes the decision to take Bubber off all the meds he's been taking for years. It's a gamble but she does it and she is amazed at the difference in his demeanor. I felt that was a bold element to add to this book and I applaud her for 'going there'. This book reminds us that each and every one of us has our own definition of 'normal' and your normal may not be my normal but that's OK.
I do have to add that the reason I chose to listen to this novel was simply the narrator. Joshilyn Jackson is a wonderful narrator (as well as one of my favorite writers!) and I just couldn't pass it up. She did a fabulous job of interpreting the story and using the many inflections of her fabulous voice to make it real. She did an outstanding job!
The bottom line is I did enjoy this quirky story but I don't think I can come out and say I loved it. It certainly is one of the most memorable stories I've ever read and I'm sure I won't soon forget Sunny and Maxon. When I first finished it, I thought it was too odd, but after I gave it some thought and remembered the things I liked about it, I felt a little better about it. If you're looking for a fun, quirky book, this is definitely one you should try.
SHINE SHINE SHINE (Audio Version)
Author: Lydia Netzer
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published: July 2012
Length: 10 hrs 53 min or 320 pp