Summary and book reviews of My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away

by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh X
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2016, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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About this Book

Book Summary

Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.

It was the summer everything changed.

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson - free spirit, track star, and belle of the block - experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive. 

1

There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot. It was a crime impossible during the daylight, when we neighborhood kids would have been tearing around in go-karts, coloring chalk figures on our driveways, or chasing snakes down into storm gutters. But, at night, the streets of Woodland Hills sat empty and quiet, except for the pleasure of frogs greeting the mosquitoes that rose in squadrons from the swamps behind our properties.

On this particular evening, however, in the dark turn beneath the first busted streetlight in the history of Piney Creek Road, a man, or perhaps a boy, stood holding a long piece of rope. He tied one end of this rope to the broken light pole next to the street and wrapped the other around his ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

As the novel progresses, Walsh manages the tricky act of re-telling scenes from his youth with great clarity and freshness. Interjections from the narrator's adult self have the potential to jar, awkwardly lifting the reader out of the story of his teenage years, but this is never a problem. Instead, Walsh's dual perspective on events becomes a real strength as he increasingly overlays the young man's mistakes and mis-steps with mature reflection. Lindy's past "is unchangeable" but there is a philosophical aspect to the novel and a tenderness expressed towards his younger self and to the other characters that is both moving and thought-provoking. There are times, however, when Walsh's maintenance of tension by exploring the underlying question of who raped Lindy Simpson, feels heavy-handed. Particularly in the latter stages of the book, the reminders that there is still something to be revealed about that night feel artificially placed.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review (660 words).

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Media Reviews

People
[A] wrenching and wondrous coming-of-age tale. Walsh’s debut novel is a mystery, a Louisiana mash note and a deeply compassionate, clear-eyed take on the addled teen-boy mind.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram
It’s a book about love and forgiveness and family and hope….Turning the pages with be a necessary treat.… [Walsh’s] haunting, lyrical novel will compel you to look back on your own life’s mysteries, your own childhood fog.”

The New Orleans Times Picayune
[A] gripping 300-page debut novel that is already one of the year’s most anticipated books…. [P]itch perfect on details…Walsh [is] a master storyteller.

Dallas Morning News
M.O. Walsh's marvelous debut novel is so thick with searching nostalgia and melancholy, it gives the reader the same sense of authenticity and emotional satisfaction more typically associated with a good memoir . . . a great mystery and a wonderful coming of age story.

Publishers Weekly
Rarely does a new author display the skill to develop a page-turner with such a literary tone. Readers of both popular and literary fiction will get their fixes from this novel.

Library Journal
Rarely does a new author display the skill to develop a page-turner with such a literary tone. Readers of both popular and literary fiction will get their fixes from this novel.

Booklist
Starred Review. Suspenseful, compassionate, and absorbing, Walsh's word-perfect rendering of the doubts, insecurities, bravado, and idealism of teens deserves to be placed in the hands of readers of Tom Franklin, Hannah Pittard, and Jeffrey Eugenides

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Celebrate, fiction lovers: The gods of Southern gothic storytelling have inducted a junior member.

Reader Reviews

Ms.G

Great Debut
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and my only criticism is that at time the tangents became distracting and while they did reflect a realistic pattern of delving in to memories I would have preferred if they had been edited. That being said, the story...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Challenger Disaster

"The day I fell in love with Lindy Simpson was January 28, 1986. This was also the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and seven courageous astronauts died. I was eleven years old and in fifth grade."

Although not a historical novel, M.O. Walsh's My Sunshine Away evokes a real sense of the recent past when the narrator, fourteen years old in the main action of the novel, recalls the Challenger disaster of 1986. This was a time when it was "exotic" to watch cable television at school and Walsh's attention to detail – the televisions with plastic knobs and buttons beneath the screens and President Ronald Reagan fiddling with a paperclip before addressing the nation later that day – will doubtless evoke strong personal ...

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