Monday, December 22, 2014

Review of "My Sunshine Away" by M.O. Walsh - A Satisfying Debut Novel That Examines The Nature of Memory and Forgiveness



One of my litmus tests in discerning how sophisticated a particular writer may be is to examine the degree to which the author may build complexity and ambiguity into the fabric of the characters that populated his novels.  M.O Walsh passes this test with flying colors in his debit novel, "My Sunshine Away."  The author creates a strong sense of place in setting the action in Baton Rouge - both before and after the influx of Hurricane Katrina refuges changed the face of this sleepy, steamy community seventy miles from New Orleans.

This novel is a gripping coming of age story that follows the development of the relationship between pretty Lindy Simpson and her young neighbor, who narrates this tale in the first person.  The action of the novel pivots around Lindy's rape on Piney Creek Road, and how the narrator's attempts to unravel the mystery of who committed this heinous act impact both Lindy and her love-struck neighbor.  There are colorful characters scattered across each of the pages.  The narrator's mother, absent father, two older sisters.  We are mesmerized by the scary giant who lives two doors away whose parade of foster children coming and going into his strange household throws a light of suspicion on him.  There is the lost puppy of an uncle who attempts to guide the narrator in crossing the rough waters of teenage love.  And there are the narrator's friends at school and in the neighborhood, friends both helpful and hurtful.

Themes resonate across the chapters of this novel - themes of the impact that memories of childhood still have on the adult that grew from those young seeds.  The author echoes Tolstoy's insights about good and evil in this musing by the narrator: "You would also see genuine fear in Mr. Landry's broad face.  More important, though, and what I am trying to tell you is that within this quick exchange i understood that it is within all of us men to be both menacing and cowardly.  It is in all of us to have virtue and value and yet it is also in our power to fall into irrelevant novelty, or, even worse, elicit indifference from the people we've loved."  (Page 273)

The tale comes to a very satisfying ending when it becomes clear why the narrator has chosen to put his thoughts and memories on paper  and to whom he is addressing these musings.  Along the way, he treats the reader to a very engaging reflection on the nature of forgiveness and rebuilding lives touched by tragedy.

This debut novel bodes well for a future full of more tales from the fertile imagination and mind of Mr. Walsh.

Enjoy!

Al

2 comments:

Leslie Lim said...

Thank you for the words of support on the post. I appreciate it.
Keep up the great work & happy blogging!

Zean

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