When Lindy Simpson was attacked in the middle of her own neighborhood one hot summer evening in the late 80s, there were four suspects. One, a young boy who was madly in love with the girl, would have done anything to help find the person responsible.
As a married man with a daughter and a son on the way, the narrator looks back on his childhood - the years leading up to Lindy Simpson's rape and the years immediately following. He recalls his parents' divorce, his own sister's death, the feelings surrounding those events and others, including Lindy's terrible attack, and how those and more affected the boy he was and the man he would become.
There are many things that I loved about this book - the fact that it's actually not breezy or fast, but sucks you in nonetheless; Walsh's writing; the method of storytelling, a man looking back on an event that so shaped and influenced his life...
But it's the setting in particular that got me this week.
Between Hap and Leonard and M.O. Walsh this has been a bad week for homesickness. That might sound odd all things considered - after all, I didn't grow up chasing bank robbers' loot in Texas nor did I grow up in the suburbs of Baton Rouge while facing a neighborhood tragedy. But I did grow up in my own little southwest corner of Louisiana and some things are just universal there. Like the sounds at night (listen to the incessant buzzing in the background of every Hap and Leonard episode), the heat, and just about everything except the crime in M.O. Walsh's debut. Plus, while Hap and Leonard is set in Texas it's actually filmed in Louisiana.
Walsh grew up in Baton Rouge and states multiple times that he wants to set the record straight about Louisiana. And I love it! Because it's true. Unless it's New Orleans or the food in general, we get a bad rap. Not that some of it isn't deserved, but we won't go there.
My childhood mirrored that of the narrator in My Sunshine Away and while I never faced the particular tragic event he or Lindy does, there are definitely events I can trace back as having had great impact on how my life was shaped.
Walsh's method of storytelling here will no doubt cause many readers to think back on their own childhood memories. Our narrator is firmly set in the here and now but lets his mind wander, flitting back not just to those childhood years but to later events as well including Hurricane Katrina. It's a walk down memory lane that's heavily weighted towards one event, but not firmly seated there. As a result, the story does stray a few times - closer to the end in particular as we're waiting for the most damning evidence of all to be revealed. But I found the story that much more appealing because of this. The anticipation and expectation of that end, delayed while our narrator's mind is drawn temporarily in another direction. It forces you, the reader, to slow down and savor the tale. In a lot of ways, it's exactly how I'd imagine this kind of story would unfold in real life were the narrator sitting next to you and sharing the story in person, over a beer or two or maybe even a table full of crawfish.
My Sunshine Away is not a thriller but is instead a story about the inevitable loss of innocence that comes with every childhood. It's also about love and a parent's wish for their children. It's something of a mystery as well and more than a little bit of a love letter to south Louisiana.
And now for the giveaway! I have one copy up for grabs - to throw your name in the hat simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 25. Open US only.
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