The setting of M.O. Walsh’s novel, My Sunshine Away, magnificently sets the tone for the entire novel. Taking place in an idyllic Baton Rouge subdivision in the late 1980s, the story flits around descriptions of neighborly friendships, kids playing outside together on hot days, and a deceptively simple and innocent way of life for all involved. Not everything is perfect, of course, but it sure seems pretty close…until one fateful day that changed everything.
When 15-year old Lindy Simpson, neighborhood golden girl and object of desire/obsession of the book’s narrator, is assaulted right on the sidewalk one summer night, the residents of Piney Creek Road are suddenly faced with a tragedy that inevitably has a negative impact on all of them. Suddenly, fear and suspicion are injected into the community as Lindy herself falls into a downward spiral. There are four logical suspects, and the narrator wastes no effort disguising the fact that he is one of them. His super-sized crush on Lindy has, at the very least, alerted his parents to what they have to admit is his possible involvement in the crime. They are torn between wanting to believe it is a case of simple infatuation, and seeing their son as someone capable of a violent attack.
As Lindy’s life changes, so too does the narrator’s. His very personal secrets have been exposed, resulting in his parents no longer seeing him in the same light, and, to top it off, his family experiences a heart-braking tragedy of its own. This is adolescent angst at its worst, and for anyone who has lived through it, brings to mind unpleasant memories of that awkward stage of life most of us would prefer not to re-live.
Walsh does a wonderful job getting in the mind of a young teen boy, describing his insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams in an incredibly believable manner. The narrator is struggling to find the confidence to become the person he wants to be, while also wanting to please his parents, and wanting Lindy to notice him and like him. Some of the details of his life might be extraordinary, but his plight of growing up and developing a more adult sense of the world is universal. The moving details of the prose really set it apart as a mystery with a lot of heart.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.