Apr 16, 2015
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Kindle Edition)
The main character and narrator of this somewhat dark book is an adult male, reflecting back on events that occurred during his childhood, starting at age fourteen. Though it is a single event that has brought him to this thoughtful and reflective state, he is at the same time coming to some realizations about his life and that of his family. He also delves into the psychology of memories and how they manifest themselves differently
in people and can change through time as we mature. When this man was a boy of fourteen in 1989, living in a nice, upper middle class neighborhood in a suburb of Baton Rouge, a terrible thing happened to the girl who lived across the street. This is the entire basis for this story and this now grown man is explaining what his role was in this and how it affected him and his family. There is much more to this, but I'm afraid if I elaborate further, I will give details that could ruin it for those who haven't read it.
This is one of those books that has left me conflicted. I didn't read a lot about this book before agreeing to read it so I knew little about what exactly it was about. As soon as I began reading, I realized that at its core, its about the sexual assault on a fifteen year old girl. That is not something I would normally choose to read about, but at this point, I was already committed so I read on. Thankfully, the writer spared us specific details of the actual crime, which I appreciated. There were, however, a few other issues I had with the book Not enough to make me stop reading, but worth noting for this purpose. I realize the author was setting a tone and describing what it was like to be a young boy nearing puberty but in his attempt to get that point across, I feel it became redundant. I grew tired of all the stories/memories about boys and their sexual fantasies at that age. At one point, I was like, OK, I get it! Enough already!
One other small thing I'll mention is with the chapter about Hurricane Katrina. This chapter came more than halfway through and I just didn't get why it was there, especially because that terrible disaster didn't even happen until 2005 and had nothing at all to do with the story. I was really thrown by it and felt it was unnecessary for the author to try to make a connection between the two.
Now, with all that said, let me say what I did enjoy was Mr. Walsh's writing. It flowed quite smoothly and was pleasing to read. He expressed the characters' innermost thoughts beautifully and poignantly. The detail with which he relayed these memories was methodical and very well paced. The character development was very good and made it all seem very real. I also think the premise of the book is original and the time frame nostalgic. MY SUNSHINE AWAY is a good book. An exceptional debut. I was surprised also by the unexpected revelation at the very end of the book. It was subtle but impactful.
The bottom line for me, is that this book may not be for everyone. If you are able to get past the difficult premise, and pubescent sexual fantasies don't bother you, you may enjoy this one. It didn't keep me from reading and even liking it but I must speak honestly about how it came across to me. Its been a difficult one for me to review because of my conflicting feelings about it. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it but at the same time my reaction needs to be genuine.
Will I read more from M.O. Walsh? Absolutely. I am very curious to see what he comes up with next. If you've read this memorable debut novel I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I believe this would be a fantastic choice for any book club because there is so much to discuss. I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest, thoughtful review.
MY SUNSHINE AWAY
Author: M.O. Walsh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Sold By: Penguin Group
Published February 2015
Length: 308 pp