Lady Sunshine: Book summary and reviews of Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

Lady Sunshine

by Amy Mason Doan

Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan X
Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2021
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

One iconic family. One summer of secrets. The dazzling spirit of 1970s California.

For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle's sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods... until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property's studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa's disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she's kept ever since is even the truth at all.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

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  1. Several characters note the Sandcastle's isolation, describing it as walled off from time or the modern world. How does this affect Jackie's stay there in 1979? In 1999?
  2. Voyeurism is a major theme in the novel. Why do Jackie and Willa spy from the treehouse? Is it ultimately constructive or destructive? Who else in the book engages in voyeurism, and why? How are their motives different from or similar to Jackie's and Willa's reasons for spying?
  3. Jackie and Willa are opposites in nearly every way, but they idolize each other. Do you think they see each other clearly when they're teenagers? Adults? How do their roles reverse over time?
  4. Jackie is obsessed with ...
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Media Reviews

"Doan's descriptions of the rugged landscape in Humboldt County create a visually rich backdrop for her characters to inhabit. A well-written, well-paced novel that unfolds slowly, hinting at the events that broke apart a young woman's life." - Kirkus Reviews

"Fans of Crossing California and Daisy Jones and the Six will be enamored with the world of Lady Sunshine." - Booklist

"Amy Mason Doan creates a whole world and mood with her exquisitely crafted novel, Lady Sunshine. It's replete with late-'70s nostalgia, and Doan masterfully renders the lives of musicians and those who are drawn to them, no matter the price. A delicious daydream of a book." - Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of 28 Summers

"This gorgeous book is part gold-drenched, nostalgic dream, part ingeniously spun mystery, but what I love best is the female friendship at its heart. Loyal, loving, and fiercely true to each other, Jackie and Willa will remind you of the times in your life when friendship was everything, when two girls together could make an entire world." - Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of I'll Be Your Blue Sky

"With a winning combination of lyrical writing and a page-turning plot, Amy Mason Doan chronicles the evolution and mysterious demise of the friendship between two young women at the California estate-cum-commune of a renowned musician. A tone-perfect evocation of the free-spirited late 1970s and a riveting coming-of-age story, Lady Sunshine captures the highs of artistic creation, the dangers of hero worship, and the costs of trying to outrun your past. This sun-dappled book has it all: heart, smarts, and an irresistible musical beat." - Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party

"Amy Mason Doan dazzles in this epic story of a family torn apart by secrets. Haunting and vivid, with layered, complex characters and a setting that sparkles with detail, Lady Sunshine will stay with me for a long time." - Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight

"Lady Sunshine is shot through with free love, hope, and all the magic of the '70s, but under the sun and music lie dark secrets. It's a thrilling ride, a beautiful evocation of an era, and a story that will keep readers entranced from the first page to the last." - Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder

"In Lady Sunshine, Amy Mason Doan has crafted an engrossing tale of secrets, memory, music, and the people and places you can never outrun. This novel will transport you to the '70s and summertime magic and a long-overdue reckoning. A fantastic summer read." - Laura Dave, international bestselling author of Eight Hundred Grapes

This information about Lady Sunshine shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Rebecca K. (Chicagoland)

A perfect summer read
In 1999, Jackie Pierce is a music teacher for kids. She's surprised when she learns she has inherited The Sandcastle, the sprawling estate of her late uncle, a rock star, upon her aunt's death. It immediately takes her back to the summer of 1979, when she spent the season at the home of her father's brother. Her cousin Willa became her inseparable companion for that time. They had many adventures together.

The summers were different then. The Sandcastle was where traveling musicians came to stay. The cabins, campfires, and beach parties were legendary. Jackie became part of that world for several months, but it all came crashing down in an instant.

Jackie returns to the estate to pack it up and sell it. But she soon learns her aunt promised a music producer he could record a tribute album at the studio in the basement. Before she empties it out, she agrees to fulfill her aunt's last request. The producer, a super fan, seems to know a lot about the family. What's his real motive? And how does he know so much?

Although I wasn't alive in the 1970s, this novel felt like it transported me there. I could practically smell the campfire, hear the waterfall, and feel the sunshine on my face as I read. It made me nostalgic for a time I've never even lived through, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I'm looking forward to reading more from novelist Amy Mason Doan.

Jenna K. (Benicia, CA)

Summertime Read
I was hooked from the fist page. You instantly get attached to Jackie and Willa. One of the things that really stood out for me is that I knew exactly all the locations mentioned being from Northern California. Being famous or in a famous family doesn't mean that life is perfect. Such a great book that would make a great summer beach read.

Dan W. (Fort Myers, FL)

California Dreamin'
This book had me off and running from the very beginning. I was engaged from the start about a story based in the California coastal region in the 70's. I was heavily engaged to the music scene at that time.

What really captured the essence of this book is the close relationship that developed between two teenage cousins Jackie and Willa. This period of time the girls engage in the communal living that was popular in certain places the country and the California musicians and their lifestyles.

It is an engaging book from start to finish. Its primary focused on Jackie and Willa's developing and enduring friendship keeps one reading at a rapid pace.

The beauty of this book is that the plot and story presents an unexpected turn of events. When this happens, the race is on to finish the book for a very surprised ending. An ending one doesn't see coming.

Kenan R. (Liberty, MO)

You Had Me at Blondie
I thought this was a great read. My only regret is that I will be at the beach next week and this is a perfect beach read! The narrative set in 1999 and 1979 moves seamlessly and I was engaged in both. I will admit that I was a little more involved in the the 70s timeline, but I was 14 in 1979 and the music/surfer Northern California story was too great! The underlying suspense kept me going, and I liked our protagonists. All in all I really enjoyed this one.

Mary L. (Greeley, CO)

I could give it 10 stars!
While I can rate many novels 5 stars, there are only a very few I regret leaving at the end. "Lady Sunshine" is such a novel. From the beginning, the major character Jackie metaphorically takes the reader by the hand into her life in 1999 and back to the summer of 1979 into the lives of her Uncle Graham, Aunt Angela and, especially, her cousin Willa weaving late adolescence, music, domestic violence, the Pacific Ocean and the way love, thought lost, roars back into one's life like the tide. If you read just one book in 2021, read this one!

Vicky R. (Roswell, GA)

Loved this vibe
My genre is usually a great psychological thriller but I lost myself in this bohemian world of musicians, surfers and artists. The author wrote and created a free spirited world you could actually feel...The 70's in California...what is better than sun,surf,and secrets...start reading.

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Amy Mason Doan Author Biography

Amy Mason Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon. She has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Amy has written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, and other publications.

Author Interview
Link to Amy Mason Doan's Website

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