September 4, 2012

Shine Shine Shine

Lydia Netzer does something brave with the beginning of SHINE SHINE SHINE: she opens the book with a man in a spaceship. A spaceship says "science fiction", but this isn't a science fictional story at all. It's a story about a family trying to live a normal, earthbound life when none of the members are quite suited to the world they've found themselves in.

The jacket copy and various descriptions I've read for this novel give too much away, in my opinion, so here's a spoiler-free summary:

The man in the spaceship is Maxon, a robotics expert on a NASA mission to the moon, where he's going to set up robots that will construct a colony where humans can eventually live. Back on earth is Maxon's pregnant wife, Sunny, and their four-year-old autistic son. Sunny has worked hard to build a perfect life for their family in their ritzy Virginia suburb, but while Maxon is away, the careful facade of normalcy begins to crack.

I loved this book. The characters are wonderful, complex, and deeply individual. Much of the story is about not fitting in and the various ways people either try to fit in or try not to care. Another significant part of the plot is the history of Sunny and Maxon's relationship, and I found their geek love story very appealing and romantic. SHINE SHINE SHINE is a little on the weird side, which I consider a plus, but I think it will appeal to anyone who likes reading about family relationships.

This is Netzer's debut novel, and she's hard at work on the difficult second one. I can't wait to read her next creation!

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Andrew Shaffer at mental_floss tracks How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read, covering the controversial origins of mass-market and trade paperbacks. (Thanks, Nathan Bransford!)

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