M.O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away fuses crime literature with a coming-of-age story. The result is a novel that is sometimes interesting, but often poorly written and ultimately insensitive to its own subject matter.
Set in late-1980s Louisiana, My Sunshine Away follows a nameless first person narrator as he recounts his teenage obsession with Lindy Simpson, a girl who is raped by an unknown attacker at the novel’s outset. What follows is the narrator’s attempt to convince the reader of his innocence, and to ultimately reveal the identity of the attacker.
Putting aside the treatment of rape for the moment, Sunshine’s frame narrative, which allows for interplay between the narrator’s present day and younger selves, does at least allow for a modicum of character development. Beyond that, however, Walsh’s descriptions are largely unremarkable, and he repeatedly uses a device where he follows long paragraphs with a single sentence paragraph reflecting on or responding to the former. Dull descriptors are forgivable in that they are unobtrusive, but the second, presumably intended to give a storyteller motif, hampers the flow of the narration.
Characterisation is equally hindered in Walsh’s writing. All the stereotypes present in this novel, and they are stereotypes rather than characters (one character is even referred to as ‘Artsy Julie’). They seem only to exist as an appendage to the narrator-protagonist. This would perhaps be less of a problem were he likeable; but, because of his younger self’s repeated sexual objectification of Lindy, he is not.
This leads to the novel’s largest problem: Lindy’s rape is either the crux of a mystery or an event through which the narrator explores his younger self’s pubescent psyche. Lindy’s psychology is neglected almost entirely, and female voices are marginalised in the novel generally. The narrator and protagonist’s mother, for instance, is shown as weak and lifeless and constantly calls on her neglectful ex-husband to solve her problems.
Photo: Flickr – Abhi Sharma