Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: My Only Sunshine

Summary: In 1962 the Cubans have their Russian missiles pointed right at the sugarcane plantations of Red Church, Louisiana, but nine-year-old Charlie Boone and his gravel-eating younger brother, Jute, are fixed on velvet ants and the declining health of a horse named Lunch Time. Their father has been sent upriver after a botched convenience store holdup and a walloping with a can of Crisco. Their mother, too, has vanished—Memaw and Pawpaw insist she disappeared in a hurricane. But Charlie hasn’t given up hope, fondly remembering her singing a campaign song as he dozed off in her lap: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine …

When Charlie’s long-lost uncle Dan rolls up at the grandparents’ farm like a returning war hero in a stolen Buick—the trunk loaded down with erotic contraband, a beautiful girlfriend at his side—the misadventures begin. After taking over Charlie’s bedroom, the latter-day Bonnie and Clyde grab a laundry bag and head for the Great Southern Bank of Baton Rouge. Thinking they plan to bring back a pair of breakfast pigs, Charlie attempts to dig a pen and opens a mysterious gusher of saltwater. Meanwhile the good people of Red Church turn on the air raid sirens, and amidst the confusion of a coming Armageddon, Charlie tries his hand at strip poker and whiskey-drinking. He is promptly dispatched to reform school, where his real education begins.

The intertwining stories of Charlie and his uncle Dan in Lou Dischler’s hilarious novel My Only Sunshine build to an uproarious climax in which an alligator is loosed from a suitcase, the Holy Ghost pays a visit, and Charlie’s once lowlife family is raised up by a five-million-ton geological oddity—what Paw-Paw calls “an honest to God fact of nature.” Buckle up for a big dose of Cajun comedy as Charlie takes charge. -- Hub City Press

I thought I was all done with the Okra Picks Challenge, hosted by Kathy/Bermudaonion, since it ends in just a few days and I had already met my goal. However, when I was cleaning out my basement a few days ago, I realized that I had a copy of MY ONLY SUNSHINE by Lou Dischler. I remember reading some very positive reviews about this little book and I thought I'd give it a shot -- it didn't hurt that it was only 219 pages!

I actually was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed MY ONLY SUNSHINE. It's definitely not a book that I would ever pick up if it weren't for my participation in the Okra Picks Challenge because, while I do love Southern fiction, this book sounded a little bit crazy to me. And if I'm being entirely honest, it was a bit odd and parts of it were almost like a tall tale. But I think that's one of the reasons that I liked it so much. This book made me laugh... and laugh... and laugh.

I would probably classify MY ONLY SUNSHINE as Cajun fiction, although I'm not sure I've ever read any other Cajun books to compare it to. It definitely encompassed a lot of the absurdity and humor that exists in many humorous Southern books; however, it just felt different. There were quite a few references to Louisiana and Cajun culture that I appreciated because they were so unique. But it didn't hurt that the author seemed to have a special way about telling a story. His prose was engaging, his characters were interesting (to say the least), and his sense of humor is incredible.

While the story was most certainly cute and very fast-paced, I have to say that my favorite thing about this novel was the cast of characters that Mr. Dischler created. Boy were they something! Each adult was crazier than the next, but I found myself loving the two boys -- Charlie and Jute (but especially Charlie.) Charlie, a nine year old boy, narrated most of this book; and I absolutely adored him. I thought the author did a great job of capturing the essence of a "juvenile delinquent" nine year old boy from his language, to his antics, to his naivete, and even to his honesty.

If I'm being picky, I did find that the adult narrated chapters weren't quite as entertaining as the ones told in Charlie's voice. I'm extremely grateful that most of the book was told in a nine year old boy's voice. I do understand why the author chose to use the adult voices to tell parts of the story. I'm just saying that I didn't enjoy them as much as the ones about Charlie and his experiences.

If you are looking for a very quick and entertaining read, then I definitely recommend MY ONLY SUNSHINE. It's a story that's guaranteed to tickle your funny bone and make you fall hard for one very special "juvenile delinquent."

Thanks to Kathy/Bermudaonion for sending me a copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds like it could be quite funny. As a coincidence, I just talked to some new grandparents who are going to be called Meemaw and Pawpaw and aren't too happy about it! :--)

Beth Hoffman said...

I read this book and it was some kinda crazy! Terrific review, Julie!

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed the parts of the story told by Charlie the most too. Tall tale is the perfect way to describe the book.

Anonymous said...

I've wanted to read this but haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet. Wonderful review, I'm going to have to go in search of this.

Sandy Nawrot said...

This book totally cracked me up. You definitely see this kind of wackiness in Southern fiction...Turtle in Paradise was a little like that too. I met the author at SIBA and you can understand how the book got that way - he has a gleam in his eyes like he is always up to something.

Karlie said...

This sounds so different than anything I have read before. Great review!