The Sunshine When She's Gone by Thea Goodman
My Goodreads rating: 1 of 5 stars
I received this book for review from the PR company who is promoting it. My best friend Anne and I both read The Sunshine When She's Gone. Neither of us liked it nor understood the motivation of the characters.
In the press release, the PR company refers to this story as a farce. Neither Anne nor I were able to find the humor/farce in this novel. Other reviewers have referred to this book as a satire, yet I find nothing satirical in the writing style or content.
It is a well written text, indeed, but it doesn't read like a comedy, which is what a farce or satire is meant to be. It reads like a serious dramatic novel with a highly improbable and unbelievable plot. The writing style does not convey that this is a tongue-in-cheek look at a couple and circumstances that are meant to be funny.
Also, based on the author's interview on NPR, I don’t get the impression that she meant this to be a farce or satire at all - she seems to give real emotions and characteristics to these people in an attempt to make them really real, but then builds a completely unreal set of circumstances around them. If she truly meant this to be a farce or satire, don't you think she would have been sure to express this in her interview?
The plot is completely unbelievable and the characters are horrid, shallow people, especially the wife. Time and time again over the past couple of weeks since I finished the book, I've tried to put myself in the shoes of the characters in an attempt to understand why they made the decisions they made. But none of them make sense.
What father in his right mind would hop on a plane to another country with a newborn, virtually no supplies, and not contact his wife in 3 days time (except for one voicemail, in which he lied about their whereabouts)? What mother in her right mind wouldn't freak out when she discovered her husband and baby were gone and couldn't get her husband on the phone (over the course of almost 3 days) to confirm their whereabouts?
I am the mother of a 2 year old, and Anne is mother to a 3 year old and a 7 month old, so we know full well how it feels to be overtired, overwhelmed and at wit's end. We know how it feels to be angry and frustrated with our spouses for waking the baby, or not doing the laundry, or not saying the right thing. But neither of us can relate to these characters, especially with the wife, who seems to have these real, caring feelings for her family, but then makes selfish and disgusting choices that in no way back these feelings up and make her utterly detestable.
As mothers, my friend and I both agree that if we hadn't been able to contact our husband (or mother in law) to determine the whereabouts and well being of our child after even a single day, we would be out of our minds with panic, not out gallivanting and drinking with friends and sleeping with ex boyfriends after a full 2 days of ignoring reality. This character pines for her child on one hand, but then turns around and ignores those feelings in favor of a stiff drink (and a stiff something else...) Ridiculous.
I think that the author has a strong writing ability, but this story is awful and her talents have been wasted on this novel.
Also, I am at a loss to understand how this book made Oprah's book of the week list. Totally scratching my head on that one.
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