‘My Sunshine Away’2/25/2015
M. O. Walsh’s astonishing debut novel takes place in the ’80s and 90s along Piney Creek Road in the suburbs of Baton Rouge. Good meals and cold drinks are consumed to stave off the oppressive heat, lawns are well manicured, and the neighborhood children attend private school. Amid the charming idyllic setting evil lurks, and as the book opens we learn that a horrible crime has been committed.
Our narrator, unnamed, is in his 30s and is recounting the last two decades in a type of confessional as he recalls his childhood. The summer of 1989, when he was 14, was a pivotal one: 15-year-old Lindy Simpson, a pretty, popular track star and his first (unrequited) love, is raped under a darkened street light, just houses away from her own home, her innocence abruptly extinguished. The crime goes unpunished, although there are four suspects — including the narrator.
As his memories unfold, he divulges the identities of the other suspects and ultimately reveals who’s responsible for the crime and why he has dealt with such guilt over the years: “I had not done a single thing about any of the terrible events in my life.”
With insight and expertise, Walsh depicts a lush sense of place with lyrical, gorgeous prose and keen detail. His characters are genuine, especially as he describes the idealism and insecurities, the bravado and vulnerability, the kindness and cruelty of adolescence. Intimate, riveting language propels the suspenseful story, and we remain committed to the likeable narrator in spite of his faults and face a satisfying ending. Walsh wisely, compassionately and at times even humorously offers a beautiful meditation on memory, family, forgiveness and youth. CV
Fay Jones was born with a love of literature, which was finely shored up throughout her early years by her parents and a beloved children’s librarian who wore the thickest glasses ever manufactured. Ms. Jones once won a coupon for a free ice cream cone after her suggestion for a name for the local Reading Is Fundamental mascot was selected.