A dark-themed debut novel with a Baton Rouge, Louisiana setting, My Sunshine Away plays with genre. Initially, it seems coming of age story about a family neighbourhood in the late 1980s, early 90s told by an unnamed fourteen year old boy who has a devastating crush on the girl across the street. Suddenly a crime is committed, drawing the reader into a mystery that is also a memoir. Popular and athletic, fifteen year old Lindy Simpson is the sunshine of the narrator’s world. He recalls, sometimes in disturbing detail, his obsession with every aspect of her life–what style of clothes she wears, her favourite music, who she hangs out with. When Lindy becomes a victim of sexual assault, the sleepy Southern street erupts into fear and suspicion. No one is presumed innocent, not even our narrator.

‘You Are My Sunshine’, believed to have been written by a native of Louisiana in 1940, is almost the state anthem. M. O. Walsh steeps his scenes in the song’s melancholic tone, instilling an adolescent’s record of love and loss with an almost unbearable vividness. Yet My Sunshine Away does not remain in the shadows of shattered futures and stolen happiness. M. O. Walsh holds onto the sunshine.

Image Credit: Jordan McQueen