Though this horrible crime--and, to some extent, the mystery of who did it--is the core around with the story of My Sunshine Away is built, the novel is in no way a whodunit tale of mysteries investigated and solved. Instead, it is the kind of prismatic story whose subject and meaning changes depending on the angle chosen; at its surface, yes, it is the story of a crime, but as it twists and turns, it becomes the story of a young boy growing into adulthood; a story of memory and guilt and how the two interplay; a story of teen angst and grown-up horrors and an oft-misunderstood Southern town.
"I want to rely on my memory," our narrator tells us. "It's important that you understand this. What else, besides love, do we have?"
In the case of My Sunshine Away, the answer? Not much. Memory and love make up the entirety of this narrator's story, which often meanders into unexpected territory. Though these wanderings can slow down the pacing at times, they read as authentic rememberings: the way we recall details and information and sometimes use stories as a way to bolster ourselves up or distract ourselves from the truth.
"It is important for me, whenever I relive this night...to first remind myself of other, better, memories. This is how I keep darkness from winning. This is how I stay healthy."
And as we are left wondering who, exactly, this story is being written for--and to what end--what becomes abundantly clear is the importance of memory in shaping not only who we are in a moment, but who we choose to become.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a digital copy of this title to review.
My Sunshine Away | M.O. Walsh | Putnam Books | February 2015 | Hardcover | 320 pages