MY SUNSHINE AWAY
BY M. O. WALSH
This debut novel submerges you into Baton Rouge so gracefully that you can feel the sweltering heat, taste the southern food and feel part of this wonderfully tight-knit community.
The story begins in the summer of 1989 when the narrator, at the time a 15 year-old high school boy, is consumed by his infatuation with Lindy – an outgoing athletics superstar who lives across the street. One hot night, Lindy is raped and this changes the dynamics within the community irreparably forever. As various suspects are eliminated and no one is brought to justice for the crime, so the pressure increases on those closest to the event.
Twenty years on, now married and about to be a father, the narrator recalls his teenage childhood during this life-changing period with compelling nostalgia. The story is a cathartic process for him as he looks back on this time of coming of age and unravels his feelings, what happened to him and his family and how they emerge, not unscathed, but with a future to look forward to. The story’s main theme is guilt, but it also covers grief, love, embarrassment and suspense whilst never forgetting the stunning nature and backdrop of Louisiana.
The author also touches on Baton Rouge’s image as home to 'second-rate citizens' compared to their outgoing lively neighbours in New Orleans and how the dynamics of this relationship changed after hurricane Katrina.
The Den found the story-telling so genuine that you felt you were reading a memoir. The tension builds beautifully throughout the novel and the ending is particularly compelling as the narrator dramatically explains his actions. Although the story has a serious subject matter, it never feels dark or austere which is a credit to the beauty of Walsh's writing. Hopefully more in store from this author.