Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Review: Sunnyside Blues

Summary: In this funny, surprising, and heartfelt novel, Mary Carter explores the people and places that shape us—for good, for bad, and forever.

Twenty-five-year-old Andes Lane has spent nine years moving restlessly from place to place as she searches for somewhere that feels right. In the little blue houseboat bobbing on a Seattle lake, she thinks she’s found it. But Andes has barely had a chance to settle in before her new life is upended by her landlord, Jay, and his ten-year-old son, Chase.

Smart, secretive, and precocious, Chase touches a chord with Andes even as he plays on her last nerve. When Jay needs someone to take care of Chase temporarily, Andes agrees to accompany the boy to Sunnyside, Queens, on a quest she’s sure will prove fruitless. But in this new, strange, unexpectedly welcoming city, Andes will confront the secrets she tried to leave behind and the lies that have kept her running. And against all odds, she’ll discover a place, a man, and a newfound peace of mind that feel very much like home… -- Kensington

I was so happy that I had the chance to read SUNNYSIDE BLUES by Mary Carter last week on my train ride to New York for BEA. I could pretty much read it uninterrupted, and if you are a mom you know how nice that is! The first thing that struck me about this book was the cover -- I think it's just fantastic and really attracted me to the book. I think a lot of people are going to pick up this book when they see it in the stores based on the cover alone.

SUNNYSIDE BLUES was a story that I found interesting, and there were just enough secrets to keep me guessing until the end. There was a lot going on in this novel; and as is the case in books with many side stories and characters, I was definitely interested in some more so than others. I have to admit that I was a little curious about finding out who was setting all the fires, but I was really more interested in finding out the identity of Chases' father and especially Andes' past. I think the author did a good job of telling this story and giving away little clues here and there that will keep readers interested as well as guessing.

I found that I enjoyed the story in SUNNYSIDE BLUES; however, for me the best part of this book was how the author developed the character of Andes. Don't get me wrong, I thought Andes was more than a little out-there, but I did think she had a huge heart and I couldn't help but like her. The reader realizes early on that Andes has a lot of baggage from her childhood, and I was extremely interested in discovering why she was so damaged. I don't want to give too much away about her past and her family, but I found myself really enjoying those chapters that gave me insight into Andes' parents and their religious beliefs. I also liked seeing how her character changed throughout the course of the novel. I especially liked how she matured and eventually confronted the demons from her past.

While I liked this book and the very quirky characters, I'm not sure that this book is for everyone. As I read this book, I kept thinking that there were just so many coincidences and random meetings especially given that the story took place in two big cities. In addition, I found some of the characters' actions to be kind of far-fetched and even unbelievable at times. When I read this book, I was just looking to escape and be entertained so I could get past the parts of the story that seemed unrealistic; however, I can see that some readers might have a hard time making the stretch.

I have not read any of Mary Carter's prior books to SUNNYSIDE BLUES, and I have to admit that I wasn't even familiar with her prior to this book. When I visited her website, I checked out her other books and thought quite a few of them looked like light, fun reads. Ms. Carter is extremely accessible and is interested in meeting with book groups in the New York area. You can learn more about how to contact her regarding her books, the reading guides, etc. here. Ms. Carter also has a contest running on her website (through August 1st) for a copy of SUNNYSIDE BLUES and a $25 Barnes and Noble gift certificate.

SUNNYSIDE BLUES will be available on June 30, 2009. You might want to consider it as a future book club selection. You can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 here to get an idea of the author's writing style. There is also a very complete reading guide (23 questions) included in the back of the book to help facilitate your discussion. Some of the topics included in the guide are family relationships, friendships, secrets, and abuse so you can see that there are a lot of terrific things to talk about. I have a feeling that this book might stimulate a lot of differing opinions and feelings in your group, and I think your meeting could be very interesting.

Thanks to Mary Carter for sending me a copy of her book. Make sure you come back tomorrow because Ms. Carter will be stopping by with a guest post and a chance to win your very own copy of SUNNYSIDE BLUES.


ANovelMenagerie said...

Awesome review!

My review is actually posting tomorrow!

I really had a lot to say about this book.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, that sounds like it would be a great book club pick with so much going on in the story.

Unknown said...

This sounds pretty good

Beth F said...

It really does sound like a good book club pick. Well-rounded review.

S. Krishna said...

I have this one to review so I am glad that you enjoyed it!