Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer is the story of Sunny, her Nobel prize-winning husband Maxon, and their son Bubber. Except for Maxon’s fame – thanks to the international prize and his current stint as a scientist -turned-astrunaut attempting to populate the Moon with robots – their life is normal. Sunny has the same fears as any woman in her shoes: Will Maxon return from space? Will Bubber live a productive life, despite his diagnosis of Autism? Will she ever be anything more than her community’s social organizer? Will her dying mother tell her the truth about her father’s identity? Okay, so maybe she isn’t completely average, but her anxieties over the future of her unborn daughter cause her to erupt – removing a part of her identity that she thought normalized her, despite all her oddities.
Sunny’s sudden resolution to be a better woman makes readers cheer and squirm. She takes back her son’s free will – medication be damned – and the result rejuvinates her.
Sunny thought, Wow, this is my little boy. This is him, he laughs hysterically. She felt exhilarated. What else could he do?
Maxon left Earth without resolving the most recent spat between him and Sunny, and he fears returning to Earth with no one to greet him. Of all the uncertainty and sadness that plagued his life, his life with Sunny was the one true shining element.
Maxon in the rocket could remember that energy between them, that way he felt electrified by her as all his switches turned on. All life is binary. On and off. There is no middle setting. Alive or dead. Kissing or not kissing….There are a thousand tiny yes and no decisions that make up every movement, but they are all just that: yes and no….For Maxon, standing with his arms around Sunny, kissing her for the first time for real, it was then on. It never turned off again in his whole life. It was a switch that was duct-taped to one side with a sign beside it that said DO NOT TOUCH.
My copy of Shine Shine Shine has more dog-earred pages and Post-It note flags than nearly any other book I read in 2013. Netzer turned otherwise typical internal monologues of questions, fears, and thoughts into a beautiful composition of thoughts. I usually enjoy dialogue-heavy novels, but this novel accomplished more with one character’s thoughts than it did during the moments of conversation.
I recommended this to my colleague Linda whose reading lists range from popular fiction to the abscure poetry. She adored this novel, which validated my ability recommend books well.
We Are Water by Wally Lamb and & Sons by David Gilbert are appropriate follow-ups to Shine Shine Shine because they are stories of normal people doing normal things, but with extraordinary and odd thrown in at just the right time.