Read by Joshilyn Jackson
Length: 10 Hrs 53 Min
Genre: Literary Fiction
Quick Thoughts: Shine Shine Shine is at times funny, frustrating and emotional, full of side trips and back stories, which slowly reveal the life of one of the most interesting and complex female character I have read in a while. Shine Shine Shine was a real departure for me as a reader, and it was one that totally paid off. I can’t say I will be adding Netzer to my "Must Read" list, but I can say she’s a writer I won’t soon forget.
So, I have no problem admitting I came for the robots. I think I have a pretty good grasp on what kind of reader I am. I do a relatively good job choosing books I know I will like, and even when I take a chance and read outside of my comfort zone, these choices are rarely made haphazardly. One thing I know about myself, I will read almost anything if you add robots. You have a tale of a young girl getting into a creepy relationship with a 100 year old sparkly vampire, and well, you pretty much lost me at sparkly. Add Robots… I’m there. Historical Romance involving the High Society Dinner Parties… wake me up later. Have these dinner parties run by sentient robots set on world domination… consider me woken. You see, I have well oiled spot in my heart for our mechanized friends. I just can’t think of anything that doesn’t get better with robots, or worse without them. Subtract Mack Megaton from A. Lee Martinez’s The Automatic Detective, and you simply have another story about a detective fighting alien invaders. Cool, sure, but not as cool. Have a natural nemesis instead of a robotic one, and Daniel H. Wilson’s novel is simply called Pocalypse, and I highly doubt Spielberg becomes interested. Robots just make everything better. Without Robots Asimov’s classic novel that hatched the Three Rules just becomes another autobiography. Who would Luke be without R2D2? Who would Buck Roger’s be without Twiki? Basically, just bad B List Actors in forgettable films. Hell, even vacuuming is now worth talking about now that Roombas are torturing house pets across the planet. So, sure, a touching character study of a woman attempting to be the perfect wife and mother in suburban America isn’t my typically thing, but throw in an astronaut husband who works with self directing robots, and well, I’m sold.
Sunny is your typical Supermom. She manages to run her house like a well oiled machine, organize community events and present the image of the perfect suburban mother. Except, she’s not typical. Her husband and child are both autistic, her father’s death in Burma may not have happened exactly as she said it had, and she’s bald. Totally bald. Yet, despite the ire it causes her mother, she manages to cover all the problems in her life with cosmetic fixes. Until the day she’s in an accident, and her wig comes flying off. Shine Shine Shine is at times funny, frustrating and emotional, full of side trips and back stories, which slowly reveal the life of one of the most interesting and complex female character I have read in a while. Sure, I joke a bit about the robots, but what really drew me to Shine Shine Shine was Lydia Netzer’s portrayal of both Sunny’s autistic sons and husband. I am often frustrated by the portrayal of people with disabilities in movies and books. So often, there is sort of a magical aspect given to people in the autistic spectrum. Shows like Touch bother me, because while they do show some of the tougher aspects of living with disabilities, it’s tempered by all the "cool things" he can do. I have a 7 year old nephew who is autistic, and more than once people have asked me what he can do, like all autistic people have a trick that defines them. This almost frustrates me more than the people who approach me in the mall, when I am with someone I work with in a wheelchair with severe disabilities, and they ask me "So, what’s wrong with him?" Shine Shine Shine was a breath of fresh air for me, because it showed the bad and ugly parts of loving someone with disabilities, along with the joy it can bring. Yet, what really surprised me about Shine Shine Shine was how much I enjoyed the character of Sunny. Sunny maddened me at times, and I found moments where she came off as selfish, and ungrateful. She would go from thinking about her relationship with her husband Maxon as the greatest of all Epic love stories one moment then blame him for their inability to fit into society and his contribution to their son Bubber’s genetic make up the next. I found this maddening, sometimes reprehensible, and very, very real. There are many things that Netzer does in Shine Shine Shine that are prime example’s of why I don’t tend to enjoy Literary fiction, unresolved endings, nonlinear story telling, unfocused narratives and unnecessary side trips, yet, here, it just worked for me. I think it came down to me falling for these characters, and I just simply wanted to spend time with them, no matter what we were doing. Shine Shine Shine was a real departure for me as a reader, and it was one that totally paid off. I can’t say I will be adding Netzer to my "Must Read" list, but I can say she’s a writer I won’t soon forget.
I was quite intrigued by the idea of having another author, Joshilyn Jackson, whose only narration experience is for her own books, narrate Shine Shine Shine. Now, I haven’t ever read or listened to one of Jackson’s novels, and as one who tends to be skeptical of author read audiobooks, I was a bit wary of this one. Well, Jackson’s performance isn’t perfect. At times, her voice is just a bit to sweet sounding for the characters, in my opinion. On a technical level, her reading is solid. It won’t blow you away, but her pacing is good, and her grasps on the characters is strong. She has a clear, strong voice, and engages the listener well. Yet, the highlight of the reading is her passion for the material. You could tell she loved this story and the characters and really wanted to share them with the listeners. This level of passion doesn’t make up for all of the small flaws, but it comes pretty close. After this performance, I would have no problem listening to a novel narrated by Jackson. I would probably prefer a professional narrator, but having her name attached wouldn’t send me running into the woods as if I was being chased by self aware robot killers.