Hello, Sunshine- Laura Dave
My Review - 4 Stars
Sunny warns you right from the start: she's a terrible person. Then she follows this up by admitting her confession is basically an attempt to manipulate us to sympathizing for her. It shouldn't work but it did. I could not help but root for Sunny, as I wondered if she was capable of change.
Can a liar change its stripes? Especially when they're forced to changed?
I loved Dave's novel Eight Hundred Grapes and was expecting this to be in a similar vein. It's not. Eight Hundred Grapes was a meditation on romance and synchronicity, while Hello Sunshine peels back the curtain of what happens when social media takes over our lives instead of the other way around. It was compulsively readable. I positively inhaled it, so curious as to see how the events in Sunny's life would play out. With each character introduced, I wondered how they fit into her new life and whether they could be part of her redemption or her undoing.
Sunny wasn't always a liar. It started out small, the lies built on one another, and before she knew it, she was queen of a YouTube cooking empire. Everything serves to feed that beast but all it takes is her Twitter account being hacked for the empire to collapse. Sunny loses it all- her show, her husband, her apartment. And it's what she does from there that makes this novel so compelling.
How does one start over in the age of social media? Do you manipulate your image or walk away from your accounts altogether? Do you shape the narrative or do you let the chips fall where they lie? This aspect of the novel was incredibly thought-provoking. I haven't read Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed yet but I imagine it would pair well with this.
Sunny's attempt to reinvent herself involves slinking back to her estranged sister in their childhood home. She has to confront the memories of their complicated past, while getting to know her precocious 6 year old niece. The two sisters must consider whether they can make amends or whether Sunny will leave them high and dry like she did the last time.
All the while, we are left with the mystery of who hacked Sunny and why. When we finally learn the culprit, I was genuinely shocked and this paired with another unexpected twist gave me mixed feelings. Ultimately, however, Dave wove these threads together into an enjoyable story, one that remained true to life. Happy endings aren't guaranteed for us. It matters more what we do with our every day, ordinary lives. Especially those like Sunny who have glimpsed extraordinary lives and must figure out who they are and what they're willing to do to scrabble back to the top.
Sunny warned us she's not a nice person but in the end, she was lying even about that. Now there's a heroine worth rooting for.
This would be a perfect beach read and I can see a book club discussion taking its themes in interesting places.
From Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly), “winning” (Publishers Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—comes a new novel about the secrets we keep…even from ourselves.
Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.
Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.
And then she gets hacked.
When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.
In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.
Buy The Book Here:
Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.