I am a fast reader the way other people are fast eaters: if it’s good, I read it as fast as possible. Thankfully, I found myself slowing down and savoring Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. I not only didn’t want to finish it, I wanted to hold it in my mouth for as long as I could – every word, every sentence. And when I was finished, I felt full. Satisfied.
Shine Shine Shine is the story of a husband and wife, Maxon and Sunny, who are both notably ‘different’; Sunny because she is (and always has been) completely hairless, and Maxon because he likely has some form of Asperger’s. They have modified themselves as best they can for each other and the world at large in order to fit in. The story explores what happens after Maxon leaves on a rocket to colonize the moon with robots that he has invented (which are easier for him to identify with then people), while Sunny remains on earth with their four-year-old son and another baby on the way. On one level the book buzzes along, propelled by Sunny’s busy, humming need to keep moving, keep being who she is pretending to be. On another level the book is strange and stark. We explore the situation through Maxon’s perspective which is, appropriately, as distant as the moon, both emotionally and physically. From both of these perspectives Netzer is able to put together a deep and whole picture of the struggles we all face in conforming to society’s image of ‘normal’.
This is Lydia Netzer’s first novel, and she totally commits to it. She nails the tone, the characters, the pace, and the story. She doesn’t shy away from the awkward or unusual. Besides space exploration and baldness, the book is littered with unexpected moments that are as bizarre as life itself. What might seem like a manipulated plot twist in the hands of a less gifted author just becomes another oddity in the small, odd world she has created in Shine Shine Shine. The story is toldin a series of reveals, each one a little jewel set in a beautifully written box. I especially loved the moments when the book seemed to veer off in a completely new direction, forcing me to let go of any sort of cause-and-effect expectations and just let the story happen. Reading Shine Shine Shine is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the top of the box to guide you. It takes a lot of trust in an author to go along with this type of writing, but Netzer never falters, and the portrait of Maxon and Sunny that is revealed by the end of the work is exquisite. By then, Netzer’s characters are no longer flawed and different; they are intensely and perfectly human. Netzer manages to show us how exactly how like us these characters are. Be warned: you may find that, while you were busy falling in love with Maxon and Sunny, you might have also inadvertently fallen in love with your own inner geek.
So pull up a seat at Netzer’s table and savor this fine novel. You won’t go away hungry. Bon appetite!