There has been a trend as of late. I’m not sure if it is an actual trend per say, or if it is more the books that I am picking – although I’m inclined to believe the former, seeing as how I make a conscious effort to not read anything similar in a row. There seems to be a fascination with darkness, with subjects that are disturbing, devastating, unthinkable. Things that have the power to – and do – forever alter a person’s life. These books that I’m describing reach far beyond the shallowness of the shoreline that Nabokov introduced us to with Lolita, which, although unnerving, was quite tame considering the subject matter. They exceed the vast expanse of the sea…their depth sometimes immeasurable…their affects profoundly lasting.
My Sunshine Away is one of those such novels. And I suspect that it will haunt me for a long time. The title alone left me with an eerie feeling – part of a verse from a song I knew in my youth:
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
but it also was the reason that I read it. The heaviness that I felt from those words intrigued me much more than other three-word combinations have. They felt empty, but not because something was lacking, empty because there was something that no longer existed, something that had been taken away. Something that had died.
The story centers on a crime that was committed a few decades in the past. The unsolved rape of a fifteen year old girl and the implications that it had not only on her life, but on the lives of her community, her neighborhood, her family, her friends. There were four suspects in this, including our narrator who remains nameless throughout. From the first page I was on the edge of my seat closely examining the narrator’s words, looking to find holes in his story, trying to decide if he was the one who committed the crime. I won’t say whether or not we end up with an answer to this question because the who or why is not significant. The significance is in what was lost. Innocence.
Innocence, once lost, can never be recovered, especially when that loss happens in such a heinous way. It happens often in literature, as in life, but it’s portrayal here is not something that erases itself from your memory after you’ve turned the last page. It’s something that sticks with you. Just like that song. Please don’t take my sunshine away.