Welcome to my blog. I am Miriam Downey, the Cyberlibrarian. I am a retired librarian and a lifelong reader. I read and review books in four major genres: fiction, non-fiction, memoir and spiritual. My goal is to relate what I read to my life experience. I read books culled from reviews in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Bookmarks, and The New Yorker. I also accept books from authors and publicists. I am having a great time.
Hope you will join me on the journey.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
The Sunshine When She's Gone
by Thea Goodman
Henry Holt and Company, 2013
My daughter called me the other day, "Mom, can you come
over? I just need a moment." I empathize with her because she copes daily
with a toddler's incessant chatter and an infant clamoring for the breast every
hour or so. I trotted over to her house to offer some relief. She thrust the
baby in my arms, grabbed the car keys, and said, "I'll be back in an
hour." Sometimes, parenting is just too much.
Certainly that is the case for Veronica and John in Thea
Goodman's debut novel, The Sunshine When She's Gone. She writes:
"Sleep--for both of them--had become a precious commodity, worthy of
fetish." Veronica had a very difficult delivery and even though baby Clara
is now six months old, Veronica is still deeply depressed and John keeps trying
to make things better. One morning, in an effort to allow Veronica to sleep in
for a while, he takes Clara out of the apartment, and before he knows it, the
two of them are on a plane for Barbados, a favorite vacation spot of the
couple's. When Veronica wakes up after a lovely night's sleep, she discovers
them gone, and she has no idea where they went.
In alternating chapters, one parent in New York, the other in
Barbados, the story evolves. Veronica thinks that John and the baby have gone
to John's mother's house out in the suburbs. John tries to call but they keep
missing each other. The reader is both sympathetic to their plight and
horrified at the decisions that they make while they are apart. Veronica finds
herself doing things that she hasn't done for months, some appropriate and some
not so appropriate. We are appalled, too, at John's behavior. No one is acting
Many reviewers have called the observations of parenting in the
book "astute." That is a good word to describe it because certainly
every parent wants on occasion to just leave. But herein lies the mystery of
parenting. Veronica desperately needs some relief, but the moment she doesn't
have Clara with her, she longs to be with her. Meanwhile, John, in an attempt to do the right
thing for the baby that he has so rudely abducted, is searching all over the
island for goat's milk because that is all Clara's tummy can tolerate. This
temporary separation helps both of them find the essence of what they had lost
in Clara's difficult birth.
reviewer I read suggests that Goodman lets the couple off lightly because
in the end, they forgive each other and life returns to the normal chaos of
family life. I think, however, they both came to the conclusion that rather than
abandon the idea of family, they are willing to accept the vagrant weekend as a
crazy sleep-deprived anomaly.
On a side note, I was about driven crazy by the title of the
book, The Sunshine When She's Gone, because my musician head kept singing the
song over and over all the while the book sat on my desk and beside my bed. I
finally looked up the words to the song, took them to the piano and banged out
the song, singing at the top of my voice. Once that was done, I felt better,
and the song stopped ringing through my brain. The words, by the way, are completely
appropriate to the book.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone, It' s not warm when she's away.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone,
And she's always gone too long
Anytime she goes away.
Wonder this time where shes gone
Wonder if she's gonna stay
Ain't no sunshine when shes gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away