Over the moon with a metaphysical spin. Heart-tugging…it is struggling to understand the physical realities of life and the nature of what makes us human….Nicely unpredictable…Extraordinary.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
There are certain novels that are just twisty, delightfully so. Shine, Shine, Shine is one. In this first novel, Lydia Netzer takes a hard look at being completely human through the eyes of two people who are kinda not…Shine, Shine, Shine may ask an old question. But Netzer’s answer to how to be who you are is fresh from the heart.
New York Daily News
The novel traces Maxon and Sunny’s relationship from their childhoods in Burma and Appalachia to outer space, revealing the futility of chasing an ideal of what’s normal…Shine Shine Shine breaks free of the gravitational pull of traditional romantic cliches.
Lydia Netzer’s luminous debut novel concerns what lies beneath society’s pretty surfaces—Sunny’s congenital hairlessness, her husband’s remoteness, their son’s autism. What makes it unexpectedly moving is how skillfully Netzer then peels back those layers, finding heartbreaking depth even in characters who lack ordinary social skills.
This is a novel about the strangeness of being human. Lydia Netzer says she wrote it when she was pregnant with her first child and feeling "paralysed with fear that I was too weird, too self-absorbed, too unskilled to have a child, and that whatever baby had the bad luck to be born of my uterus would be permanently scarred by my failings." Hopefully, she feels better now. Or at least, a lot less alone in her imagined weirdness. After meeting Sunny and Maxon, I know I do.
Netzer has penned a modern take on alienation, building a family, making connections—creating memorable characters and an odd, idiosyncratic, but highly believable narrative along the way.
[Sunny and Maxon’s] peculiarities form an endearing story in Shine Shine Shine, Norfolk resident Lydia Netzer's first—and amazingly inventive—novel.... Netzer's munificence of spirit lights her story with compassion.... Shine Shine Shine transcends not only geography, whether in Burma, Pennsylvania, Norfolk or outer space, but also the science and the struggles, the weirdness and the woe; it aims straight for the heart and the humanity that unites us all. Netzer, whose imagination knows no limits, infuses her debut with love—and reminds us that normalcy can be vastly overrated.
Shine, Shine, Shine is a novel…but “Shine, Shine, Shine” could easily refer to Netzer’s writing abilities, the way she handles the craft of storytelling, and the way her novel captures and holds the reader’s attention…Netzer is a master storyteller. She leads the reader through a landscape full of beauty and charged with pitfalls, actual and emotional, while holding your eyes to the page, and your fingers itching to turn to the next page
Not only entertaining, but nuanced and wise…blending wit and imagination with an oddly mesmerizing, matter-of-fact cadence, Netzer’s debut is a delightfully unique love story and a resounding paean to individuality.
People (A People Pick)
From a distance, Netzer’s confident debut is the tale of “an astronaut lost in space, and the wife he left behind.” At its core, it is the story of the power of love to overcome the great accidents of the universe. Sunny was born totally hairless. Her husband, Maxon, is a rocket scientist, and together they have an autistic son named Bubber. It appears they live a normal suburban life in Virginia— Sunny wears a long blond wig and Bubber is medicated to keep him calm. But after Maxon leaves for a space expedition, a car accident reveals Sunny’s hairlessness to her friends and neighbors. Being outed causes Sunny to re-examine her life, and she begins to come to terms with herself as different but special. Meanwhile, Maxon’s expedition is jeopardized when a tiny rock “that had been hiding behind the moon” slams into his spaceship. As he and his crew struggle to survive, and Sunny embraces her family’s peculiarities, Netzer deftly illuminates the bonds that transcend shortcomings and tragedy. Characterized by finely textured emotions and dramatic storytelling, Netzer’s world will draw readers happily into its orbit.
(Starred review.) Sunny is the perfect wife leading the perfect life in small-town Virginia, with a husband she's managed to make look pretty standard-issue, too, though he's a brainy-to-distraction astronaut slated to help colonize the moon. Then a minor car crash sends Sunny's blonde wig flying, revealing that she's bald, and the normalcy these two have built up since meeting as oddball children starts to tumble. Lots of in-house enthusiasm for what seems to be a juicily wacky and engaging first novel.
Netzer's debut, about a heavily pregnant woman left to care for her dying mother and autistic son while her Nobel-winning husband travels to the moon, takes the literary concept of charmingly quirky characters to a new level.... While [Maxon] faces a crisis in space that shows him how much his relationships on earth matter, Sunny stops wearing her wig, medicating Bubber to control him and maintaining Emma endlessly on life support. She drops her pretense of normality, only to realize that there may be no such thing as normal; everyone wears a metaphorical wig. Talky uplift and a self-congratulatory tone bog down the novel, but through compelling characters, Netzer raises a provocative question: Is autism a disability, a gift or the norm of the future?
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