Published: February 10, 2015
An NPR best book of the year, New York Times best-seller
“My Sunshine Away” is a coming-of-age mystery novel set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The narrator is a young boy who falls in love with his friend and neighbor, Lindy. His love is persistent throughout the transformations of identity that Lindy undergoes in the aftermath of being raped. This young boy is also dealing with other big issues: divorced parents, a neglectful father, and the death of a sibling.
The mystery in this novel is who the rapist might be. There are several unsettling characters in the book that are suspects. The narrator himself briefly appears to be a suspect. He is hiding something, but we do not know what.
I enjoyed the lush descriptions of Baton Rouge immensely: the culture, the food, the people, the nature, the impact of Andrew and Katrina. Some of the chapters that were about Baton Rouge could have been stand-alone short stories, and very good ones at that.
The book is written from adulthood, reminiscing back about 20 years, but he also spends time speaking of his current life: adulthood, marriage, his wife’s pregnancy. These adulthood chapters were less interesting to me. I felt that there was a comparative lack of passion, or maybe even disingenuousness, when the narrator was describing his adult life. Yes, it was nice to have the complete picture of how everyone turned out, but it felt unnecessary to me. The narrator also inserts certain facts about children who have been raped, children who have grown up with divorced parents or suffered the death of a sibling, as well as facts about the foster system. The facts felt instructive, yet were interesting.
I give this book: , well 3.5. It was well written, had great character development and dealt with some weighty coming-of-age issues. Saying that, I did not feel deeply affected by it. I would definitely categorize it more as a young adult read, and I think for the younger reader, it would be more pertinent and affective, more of a 4 star read. I also think reading about a girl’s experience of rape, from the perspective of a prepubescent boy who is “in love” with her, only added distance to the horror of it. Perhaps, to the male reader, it would be more meaningful.
Baton Rouge, LA
crawfish & corn
“All I saw were drunk and sweaty people, sucking the heads off insects,” says the narrator’s friend from Michigan
Spanish moss (with lice)
- It seemed like there were no consequences to Bo Kearne’s behavior. How do you think this affected him?
- Did you ever think while reading the novel that it could have been the narrator who committed the crime? Why or why not?
- What were your thoughts about Lindy’s parents approaching potential suspects with the police?
- How does Lindy change after the rape? Is it immediate or is there a delay? How do you feel the “outing” of the rape affects her?
- What is the effect of group therapy on Lindy?
- Jason Landry is the “anchor” of his foster family. What are your thoughts on foster families doing this with one of their foster children?
- What do you perceive as the abuses suffered by Jason and the other Landry foster children?
- How do you perceive the relationship of the narrator and his father? What do you make of the father and his 18 year old girlfriend?
- Why do you think the narrator remains un-named throughout the novel?
- How does Lindy manifest the “rape trauma syndrome?
- Is the narrator really listening to Lindy during all those late night conversations? Why or why not? What is he hoping to hear from her? How is he hoping the conversation will go?
- What do you make of Uncle Barry’s role in the novel? Why do you think the narrator’s mother wanted to minimize his influence?
- What do you make of the narrator’s choice of wife?
- How does the narrator hope to raise his son? What kind of father does he plan to be?
- How would you explain the meaning of the title?