Friday, July 16, 2021

Book Review: "Lady Sunshine" by Amy Mason Doan

Lady Sunshine, Amy Mason Doan's newest novel, is a beautifully written, nostalgic story of friendship and family secrets.

The summer Jackie was 17, in 1979, she went to live with her musician uncle at The Sandcastle, his sprawling, campground-like, coastal estate in California. Friends, acolytes, and fellow musicians would flock there and live a bohemian lifestyle in the cabins and on the grounds, bringing and finding merriment, love, and musical inspiration.

Jackie took all of this in earnestly, marveling at the coastal beauty of the estate and the love and intensity her uncle radiates. She becomes fast friends with her free-spirited cousin Willa, and each shares their unique life experiences with the other. It’s an idyllic summer until one fateful moment ends it all, and Jackie leaves abruptly as Willa vanishes.

Twenty years later she gets the surprise of her life when she learns she has inherited The Sandcastle, despite not having set foot there since 1979. As she plans to get the compound ready to be sold, the process of packing reawakens memories and reopens questions about the past.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Jackie, her estranged aunt had agreed before her death to let a music producer create a tribute album to her uncle and produce it at The Sandcastle. While she is first reluctant to share the space, his presence, and that of his musicians and their families, rekindles the spirit of those days of Jackie’s youth.

How reliable are our memories? How indelible are the friendships and relationships we form as teenagers? How much can the trajectory of our lives change in an instant? Lady Sunshine addresses these questions in a story that feels nostalgic and yet timeless in many ways.

I’m not one of those people who reads books based on seasons but this really was a great summer read. Amy Mason Doan's imagery is particularly evocative and gorgeous, and this is definitely a book I’d love to see on the big or small screen someday.

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