Shine Shine Shine
By Lydia Netzer
(St. Martin’s Press, Hardcover, 9781250007070, July 2012, 320pp.)
The Short of It:
A story about a weird, modern family wading through love as they know it.
The Rest of It:
Maxon is a Nobel Prize winning scientist on a mission to colonize the moon. The robots he’s created for the purpose are lifelike in that they can talk and interact just like humans. Back on Earth, his wife Sunny raises their 4-year-old autistic son, Robert (Bubber) and awaits the birth of their second child. When communication with the capsule is lost due to a meteor hit, both are left to ponder the lives they’ve lived and the mistakes they’ve made along the way.
Sometimes you read a book and then sometimes you experience one. This book is full of moments and experiences so unlike my own, that it’s a hard book to describe. The characters are quirky but in an odd way. Not a fun way. For example, Sunny was born hairless. No eyebrows, no eyelashes. At first, she covers it up with wigs and custom hair pieces, but when she loses communication with Maxon, she decides to leave herself unadorned for the world to see. During all of this, Sunny’s mother is also on her deathbed, connected to tubing and not able to breathe on her own. The tethers of life in both her mother’s situation and Maxon’s are failing in a big way, and Sunny is slowly coming unglued.
Maxon, on the other hand, is the more stable of the two or so he appears to be. His ability to become detached or distant, is a plus when his mission is jeopardized. His ability to think clearly in times of crisis is admirable, yet also a bit disturbing given that he has so much to lose. Hyper focused or positive attitude? You never really know with Maxon. It’s almost as if he’s one of his robots. Calculated. Precise. Dependable. Reliable. As most of you may have guessed, this also equals, boring.
It’s clear from the beginning that Sunny is resentful of the life she’s lived with Maxon. Although Maxon is a very successful scientist, Sunny’s mother begged her not to get involved with him when he fell for her as a child. The two as children, seemed to be connected and although they went about their lives with school and college, that connection was never lost. However, in the real world of raising an autistic child, struggling with the day-to-day “hassle” that has become her life, Sunny finds herself frustrated and worried that her next child will also be autistic and where is Maxon in all of this? In space.
I did not enjoy this book while reading it, but in hindsight, there are things that I appreciated about it afterward. The feeling of loss and isolation for both Maxon and Sunny is really quite well done and necessary since both characters are not terribly verbal in expressing their thoughts.
In summary, the book left me a bit cold. The characters, all of them, lacked warmth and understanding and the second half was rather difficult to get through. I don’t need warm, likable characters to like a book but I need to feel a pulse and the characters were a little too “out there” for me. I never really understood where they were coming from and in turn, didn’t really care where they were headed.
I will say this, there are some beautiful lines. Lines in which I read two, three and four times for their beauty. This is Netzer’s debut novel and although ultimately it didn’t work for me, I’d absolutely give her writing another try.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Net Galley.
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