My Sunshine Away

22367526My Sunshine Away 
M.O. Walsh
Published February 10, 2015
306 pages (hardcover)

With its first paragraph, this book makes it clear that it won’t be three hundred pages of sunshine and rainbows:

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.

(You can read the rest of the first chapter here.)

The unnamed first-person narrator, we find out soon thereafter, is one of these four suspects. The book is his retelling of the events surrounding the rape (some are very obviously related, others simply provide helpful background about the suspects or other characters).

He describes in detail the three other suspects, all of whom live on his and Lindy’s quiet neighborhood street: Bo Kern (a dumb, hot teenager with an enviable body), Jason Landry (the adopted son of a psychiatrist and a backwoods Christian mom who began as Jason’s foster family), and Jacques Landry (Jason’s psychiatrist father).

The narrator also describes himself, particularly his obsession with Lindy. He thinks about her constantly, spies on her through windows and from trees, masturbates to fantasies of her, draws pornographic pictures of her, and tries to find excuses to talk to her and spend time with her. Nevertheless, his obsession with Lindy seems like normal teenage-boy fare. He is earnest and likable. So, you want to believe that he is innocent. But, just when you’re feeling sure he’s a good kid, he reminds you that he’s manipulating the story: “I’m drawing myself as innocent here. Don’t we all?” He drops hints that he may not be as good as you hoped (“You have no idea what I’m capable of.”). And you wonder if this story is actually just a means for him to come clean after all these years.

Rating: 3.5/5

This book is often compared to Gone Girl, a book that I despised for its silly premise and ridiculous twists. This is much better. But it is a fair comparator for a few reasons: 1) It is fast paced. The chapters are short, and it’s only 300 pages long. I read it in a day. 2) It is a page-turner. You will like the narrator and root for him and want to find out if he is guilty or innocent. You will be willing to stay up late into the night to find out. 3) Things progress in unexpected ways. It doesn’t share the over-the-top twists for which Gone Girl is famous, but its path is not entirely predictable, either. 4) It is fluff (of the mystery variety), pure and simple. There is nothing particularly literary about this book (although, don’t get me wrong, it’s not poorly written), but it’s a lot of fun. This is a great vacation read or a good book to turn to after you’ve plowed through War & Peace and are looking for something a little lighter, quicker, and more fun.

One other thing worth mentioning: Walsh is from Baton Rouge, and it’s clear that this is home for him. Baton Rouge is not just a setting where things take place; it is alive, vividly realized, and painstakingly described. There is a chapter about Louisiana’s dark mystique (and all the things that non-Louisianians just don’t understand/appreciate, like crawfish boils and nutria and bayous). There is a chapter about Hurricane Katrina, and how the influx of New Orleanians effected Baton Rouge. LSU football and Tiger Stadium and the Garden District and The Chimes (a popular LSU bar) all make appearances. The book pays homage to Baton Rouge, a city that is uniquely and charmingly inviting and neighborly. I lived in Baton Rouge for a few years about a decade ago, so I know this from first-hand experience and appreciated how well Baton Rouge was portrayed.

The hype:

  • the Amazon Debut Spotlight Selection for February 2015
  • a LibraryReads List selection for February 2015
  • an Indie Next List pick for February 2015
  • an Entertainment Weekly Must List pick

Who should read it: Kara (i.e., Louisianians—especially those from Baton Rouge, who will appreciate the references to their city and state); Jason (i.e., fans of Gone Girl). 

Want to read along with me? A review of this book is coming soon:

  •  Neverhome by Laird Hunt (a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice book; an Indie Next List pick for September 2014)
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2 thoughts on “My Sunshine Away

  1. Just read this book — on your recommendation. Thanks. I really enjoyed it and (obviously) whipped right through it. Much more enjoyable than “Gone Girl.”

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