My Sunshine Away (Hardcover)
In 1989 Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a teenage girl, Lindy Simpson, is knocked unconscious and sexually assaulted in a neighborhood where these kinds of things didn’t happen. Lindy’s classmate, a boy who loves her to near obsession, tells the story. He finds himself a suspect, which at first is difficult to believe since he seems to be such a wholesome young kid. Yet the more he reveals about himself, sometimes in brutal honesty, the more you realize how hard it would be to rule him out as the perpetrator. But there are other suspects as well: a creepy neighbor man, an older boy frequently running afoul of the law, or perhaps a perfect stranger that’s never to be seen or heard from again.
My Sunshine Away is part coming-of-age story, part mystery, part southern gothic tale. The novel takes you back to the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger and then later the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It begins with the narrator’s tidy world -- all school and Lindy and home. But the sexual assault changes everything, and by and by his and Lindy’s world broadens, police are notified, families are forever changed. For them, innocence -- if that‘s what it really was --disappears forever. Thankfully, adulthood comes with its own surprises.
The narrator thinks back to Lindy Simpson and wonders what became of her. The question of who assaulted her may have been clearer had he not been lost in a hormonal fog. The question of her future cannot be solved unless, by chance, they meet again…
I know the year is young, but My Sunshine Away is my current favorite novel of 2015. I loved how Baton Rouge was described: the heat, the food, the insects, the snakes, the swamps, the old south floral beauty. Portrayals of the family, friends, and neighbors reminded me of a John Irving or Jeffrey Eugenides novel. I felt for a while that I was living in their lives, and I imagine any suburbanite growing up anytime close to that era might feel the same.— Pete is our Union Station Tattered Cover manager, a writer, an artist, and an insatiable reader
February 2015 Indie Next List
“This debut author offers a wonderfully written story about a boy coming of age in the late '80s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is narrated by a 14-year-old boy who, along with all of the other young males in the neighborhood, is infatuated by 15-year-old Lindy Simpson. Everything changes that summer, when Lindy is brutally raped and no one is ever charged with the crime. Told with a sense of humor, some sadness, and, at times, a wisdom beyond the narrator's 14 years, the story focuses on all of the suspects and shows how suspicion and violence can change lives forever.”
— Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
-A tantalizing mystery and a tender coming-of-age story...Unputdownable.---Oprah.com
In the summer of 1989, a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom is rocked by a violent crime when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson--free spirit, track star, and belle of the block--is attacked late one evening near her home. As the dark side of this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia is revealed, the close-knit neighborhood is irreversibly transformed.
In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.
Named A Book of the Year by NPR, The Dallas Morning News, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist
An Entertainment Weekly 'Must List' Pick
About the Author
M.O. Walsh's fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Oxford American, The Southern Review, American Short Fiction, Epoch, and Best New American Voices, among others. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Mississippi and is currently the director of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans, where he lives and works, happily, with his wife and family.
Praise for My Sunshine Away
“[A] wrenching and wondrous coming-of-age tale. Walsh’s debut novel is a mystery, a Louisiana mash note and a deeply compassionate, clear-eyed take on the addled teen-boy mind.” —People
“Excellent… Walsh has an innate knack for plot and suspense, but the real pleasure here is his prose. This stunning and gracefully written debut novel is a total page-turner until the very end.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Both a tantalizing mystery and a tender coming-of-age story, My Sunshine Away is equally capable of making a reader cry…and scream…. And yet, you’re never exhausted trying to piece together clues to solve the crime. The power of the book lies in its spot-on characters…. Unputdownable.” —Oprah.com
“[A] rich, unexpected, exceptional book…. A gripping read that’s more than a thriller, more than a traditional Southern tale, My Sunshine Away is a brilliant meditation on the unpredictability and the lifelong effects of childhood events and relationships.” —Chicago Tribune
“Just 14 pages into reading My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh’s debut novel about a boy growing up in Baton Rouge, La., I had a thought that I scribbled in the margin: ‘So To Kill.’ The narrator, after all, was a bit like Harper Lee’s Scout, a person now all grown up and looking back at childhood. And both books begin with the memory of a tragic moment. To Kill a Mockingbird, of course, starts with Scout’s brother’s badly broken elbow. Walsh’s book begins with the rape of a teenage girl next door. There are some striking similarities to the stories…. My Sunshine Away is also simply, like Lee’s novel, a great work of fiction. It’s a page-turning thriller with a heartbreaking crime and an intriguing cast of suspects. But it’s also a love story to Louisiana, with passages that force the reader to pause and contemplate the ‘wrong-ended telescoping’ that gives the state a bad reputation…. It’s a book about love and forgiveness and family and hope….Turning the pages with be a necessary treat.… [Walsh’s] haunting, lyrical novel will compel you to look back on your own life’s mysteries, your own childhood fog.”—The Fort Worth Star Telegram
“Try and restrain yourself from flying through the pages of this wonderful novel. Instead savor this lush Louisiana mystery that takes you back to what life tasted like when you were still somewhat naïve to the ways of the world. Not just Southern, but American in its vivid Baton Rouge colors and scents, treetops and grasses, My Sunshine Away is the story of how the events of our youth profoundly affect us as adults. The last page is as satisfying as the first. A mystery you cannot wait to solve.” —Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help
"Recalls the best of Pat Conroy: the rich Southern atmosphere, the interplay of darkness and light in adolescence, the combination of brisk narrative suspense with philosophical musings on memory, manhood, and truth.... Celebrate, fiction lovers: The gods of Southern gothic storytelling have inducted a junior member." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Suspenseful, compassionate, and absorbing, Walsh’s word-perfect rendering of the doubts, insecurities, bravado, and idealism of teens deserves to be placed in the hands of readers of Tom Franklin, Hannah Pittard, and Jeffrey Eugenides.” —Booklist (starred review)
“[A] haunting, mysterious debut.” —US Weekly
“[A] gripping 300-page debut novel that is already one of the year’s most anticipated books…. [P]itch perfect on details…Walsh [is] a master storyteller.” —The New Orleans Times Picayune
“I really loved this book. I am in awe, swept up in the quiet beauty of the prose, and in the wisdom and compassion of the narrator. I can't praise it enough. My Sunshine Away is not a thriller; it is not genre fiction; but it's realism at its finest, and it is a page turner—a story made memorable in paragraph after paragraph by the brilliance of its author, and by the scope of the questions he asks as to how we live this life to the fullest as loving and moral beings. It’s about love, obsession, and pain. Such a beautiful book. Such a remarkable book. I can't praise it enough.” —Anne Rice, #1 nationally bestselling author of Prince Lestat
"M.O. Walsh's marvelous debut novel is so thick with searching nostalgia and melancholy, it gives the reader the same sense of authenticity and emotional satisfaction more typically associated with a good memoir. My Sunshine Away is the kind of novel you simply can't put down...a great mystery and a wonderful coming of age story...deeply felt." —Dallas Morning News
“My Sunshine Away is one of the best novels of 2015…. I do not believe my opinion of this incredibly entertaining novel will diminish with time…. From the first gripping sentence to the very last, Walsh has written a compelling novel that gets tremendous strength from the appeal of its narrator….” —The Free Lance-Star
“My Sunshine Away is that rarest find, a page-turner you want to read slowly and a literary novel you can’t look away from. At times funny, at times spine-tinglingly suspenseful, and at times just flat-out wise, this novel is also a meditation on memory, how it can destroy or damn us but redeem us as well. It’s a book to read and reread, one that will only get better with time, like its writer. I’m already excited about M. O. Walsh’s next book, whatever it is.” —Tom Franklin, bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
“In his stunning first novel, Baton Rouge native M.O. Walsh evokes a languid Southern Gothic atmosphere, rife with a hazy, heat-drenched poetry…. Reminiscent of Pat Conroy’s sweeping family epics and Jeffrey Eugenides’ folkloric intrigue…My Sunshine Away achieves a rare feat: both a page-turning mystery and literary-quality novel, you’ll be charmed, impressed, and engrossed in this meditation on memory’s ambiguity, and how a childhood tragedy can affect us more deeply than we consciously know.” —Bustle
"Much more than a simple coming-of-age story; it is a rumination on how events in one’s life can appear differently depending on where and when they are experienced and recalled.... Rarely does a new author display the skill to develop a page-turner with such a literary tone. Readers of both popular and literary fiction will get their fixes from this novel." —Library Journal
“From beginning to end, My Sunshine Away is full of wisdom, wit, and wonder.” —Bookpage
“Tenderly nostalgic…and thoroughly immersive.” —Publishers Weekly
“This is literature of the highest order. Although the book snaps with the tautness of a thriller––and Walsh keeps the reader guessing until the end, as the best mystery writers do––My Sunshine Away also asks essential questions, like how much responsibility we have to each other, and whether we can we ever fully reassemble the pieces of broken lives. And while Walsh hints at answers, it’s his willingness to engage such ideas that makes My Sunshine Away an important work of fiction. We need more novelists with the guts and clarity of M. O. Walsh.” ––Matthew Thomas, New York Times–bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
“If you start this novel, you will not put it down. My Sunshine Away is a riveting, suspenseful, page-turning mystery. It is also a wise, insightful, and beautifully written novel. This is an extraordinary debut.” ––Jill McCorkle, New York Times–bestselling author of Life After Life
“M.O. Walsh has written one of the best books I've read in a long while. An outstanding examination of the way that the past and the weight of our memories shape us, My Sunshine Away, thanks to Walsh’s verve and total control over the narrative, feels utterly original.” —Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang
“Q: When is it a thrill to feel gutted? A: When you start reading the book you hold in your hands. M. O. Walsh’s My Sunshine Away reminds us that art can be wrenching and a delight, that pain—if examined through wit, intimacy, and wisdom—can be a salve. This novel is great.”––Darin Strauss, internationally bestselling author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng
“My Sunshine Away begins with a crime. But the novel is so much more than a mystery; it’s half lament, half love letter to youth and to possibility. On every page, we feel complicit, perhaps even guilty. Guilty of what? For ever having been young ourselves. The magic of My Sunshine Away is in M. O. Walsh’s extraordinary ability to make us long for the heartache of youth and its inevitable sins. This is an awe-inspiring debut.” —Hannah Pittard, author of Reunion and The Fates Will Find Their Way
“If I were asked to list the qualities the ideal novel would offer, I’d start by demanding beautiful sentences. I’d want the opening to grab me and I’d want the ending to refuse to let go. I’d ask for characters who consistently surprise by being somehow deeper and less predictable than we could ever have guessed they’d be. I’d want Place to be written with a capital P. I’d want a mystery at the heart of the story, and a mystery or two in every heart. And when I finished reading the book, I’d want to be both wiser and sadder than when I started. M. O. Walsh’s magnificent novel My Sunshine Away afforded me all these pleasures and more. This is one of the best novels I’ve read in ages.” —Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances