Title: Shine Shine Shine
Author: Lydia Netzer
336 pages, published July 2013
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Purchased for myself
I picked up this book at Target. The cover looked interesting, the back cover indicated it had many honors including a New York Times Notable book, Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, Publisher's Weekly Best Book, and Library Journal Best Book. The synopsis looked interesting. So I thought, why not give it a try?
The book is primarily about two people--Sunny and Maxon. They grew up together, fell in love, got married, have a young autistic son, and another on the way. At the beginning of the book, Maxon, a scientist (who appears to have autism as well--but no diagnosis is mentioned) is an astronaut lost in space on a mission to the moon, while Sunny's struggle to be the perfect wife falls apart. Sunny was born with no hair--no hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes. She's spent years hiding under wigs and false eyelashes and eyebrows. Then, her secret is revealed. She must then deal with Maxon being in space, being very pregnant with her second child, her mother close to dying, and her young autistic son. The novel alternates between flashbacks of their lives and the events during the week Maxon is on his space mission.
Normally these themes and ideas in a plot are something I gravitate to and get excited about. I love a little bit of crazy mixed with examples of life's struggles and the journey to improve oneself. I expected to love this book, and I even was loving it up until about 70 pages in. From then on, my opinion of the novel slowly declined--the story was just all over the place and scattered. While many novels use flashbacks and memories to tell the story, the flashbacks in this novel were a bit random and disjointed. In my opinion, some memories and flashbacks don't particularly relate to the "big picture" of the story. Instead of enhancing the story, they seemed to take away from advancing the story. It jumped around so much that it was difficult to follow, and didn't hold my interest.
I also found the characters difficult to relate to. I thought at first this was because I am not a mother, and I don't have much experience with autistic children, but I don't believe that is why I didn't relate. There were plenty of themes I should've been able to relate to here--the mother/daughter relationship between Sunny and her mother, feeling "normal" (or not), being yourself, accepting yourself, trying to be perfect, and so on. But I just didn't relate to any of the characters at all.
The ending was a bit awkward and quick for me. Despite the fact that I wasn't connecting to the book, I expected the ending to be more developed since the author spent all that time on back story and flashbacks. Then, in just a few short pages, the book was over. Instantly, without a lot of description.
So, despite all the praise and good reviews for this novel, it just wasn't for me. I never regret reading a book, so I am still glad I read it. The book just didn't speak to me and I didn't personally relate. But--that doesn't mean you won't love it! I'd love to hear what others thought of the book.
Overall rating for "Shine Shine Shine": C-