24 June 2009

Book Review: Sunnyside Blues by Mary Carter

I was delighted to read and review Mary Carter’s third book, Sunnyside Blues, due for release on June 30, 2009.

Summary from marycarterbooks.com: 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.

At the onset, I picked up Sunnyside Blues and found myself unable to put it down after a few pages. The novel unfolds with Andes stumbling through a police interview, thus the hook to keep reading is set. As the third chapter opens, the underlying secrets of the characters begin to emerge, bubbling just below the surface. I found myself starting to ask flurries of questions and wanting learn more about the characters, especially Andes. Of course, Andes was truly endeared to me as chapter three closed because even though she fell, Andes ensured none of the champagne was lost! A girl who appreciates and saves her bubbles is my kind of girl!

As Andes’ relationship with Jay and Chase develops, her responsibility grows but so do the questions that surround her and subsequently the other characters too. Secrets become paramount. In fact, secrets are abundant and diverse including hiding the past, discovery, suspicion, protection, and facing the secret. Carter paints a very vivid picture of each character’s secret but weaves the revelations delicately into the plot to keep the reader guessing, thinking, ultimately making this novel difficult to put down.

Delving into the realm of secrets, it becomes clear that Andes’ secrets, as well as those of Chase, Jay, and Andes’ father, have had serious life changing consequences. Secrets come with a price. Some secrets are transparent and easily figured, while others are so deep, so hidden that the secret is much like a dead body lying in a casket covered by a six foot dirt barrier.

This novel is not formulaic, but a well thought out, complex story that rises above the mindless chick lit genre. I enjoyed that Carter allowed for Andes to experience catharsis at the end of the novel. More importantly, it did not finish with the happily ever after fairy tale where boy-gets-the-girl. Instead, Andes was true to herself and her dreams.

Sunnyside Blues reminded me of what I call ‘three universal truths’:
* Everyone has secrets
* You cannot run from your past
* You never know where the day will take you

Did I mention there is a pyromaniac and snakes too?

Snap up a copy of Sunnyside Blues. You will be glad you did.

Mary is having a contest, so enter to win a signed copy of Sunnyside Blues and $25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card! Winner will be announced on August 1st!

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