There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot. It was a crime impossible during the daylight, when we neighborhood kids would have been tearing around in go-karts, coloring chalk figures on our driveways, or chasing snakes down into storm gutters. But, at night the streets of Woodland Hills sat empty and quiet, except for the pleasure of frogs greeting the mosquitoes that rose in squadrons from the swamps behind our properties.
On this particular evening, however, in the dark turn beneath the first busted streetlight in the history of Piney Creek Road, a man, or perhaps a boy, stood holding a long piece of rope. He tied one end of this rope to the broken light pole next to the street and wrapped the other around his own hand. Thinking himself unseen, he then crawled into the azalea bushes beside Old Man Casemore’s house, the rope lagging in shadow behind him like a tail, where he perhaps practiced, once or twice, pulling the rope taut and high across the sidewalk. And then this man, or this boy, knowing the routine of the Simpson girl, waited to hear the rattle of her banana-seated Schwinn coming around the curve.
You should know:
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a hot place.
Even the fall of night offers no comfort. There are no breezes sweeping off the dark servitudes and marshes, no cooling rains.
Instead, the rain that falls here survives only to boil on the pavement, to steam up your glasses, to burden you. So this man, or this boy, was undoubtedly sweating as he crouched in the bushes, undoubtedly eaten alive by insects. They gnash you here. They cover you. And so it is not a mistake to wonder if he might have been dissuaded from this violence had he lived in a more merciful place. It is important, I believe, when you think back about a man or a boy in the bushes, to wonder if maybe one soothing breeze would have calmed him, would have softened his mood, would have changed his mind.
But it did not.
So the act took place in darkness, in near silence, in heat, and Lindy Simpson remembered little other than the sudden appearance of a rope in front of her bicycle, the sharp pull of its braid across her chest. Months later, and after much therapy, she would also recall how the bicycle rode on without her after she fell. She would remember how she never even saw it tip over before a sock was stuffed into her mouth and her face was pushed into the lawn. The crush of weight on her back. The scrape of asphalt against her knees. She would remember these, too. Then a voice in her ear that she did not recognize.Then a blow to the back of her head.
She was fifteen years old.This was the summer of 1989 and no arrests were made. Don’t believe what you see on the crime shows today. No single hairs were tweezed out of Old Man Casemore’s lawn. No length of rope was sent off to a lab. No DNA was salvaged off the pebbles of our concrete. And although the people of Woodland Hills answered earnestly every question the police initially asked of them, although they tried their best to be helpful, there was no immediate evidence to speak of.
All four of these primary suspects therefore remained unofficial and uncharged, as the rape had occurred so quickly and without apparent witness that the crime scene itself began to fade the moment Lindy Simpson regained consciousness and pushed her bicycle back home that night, a place only four doors away, to lay it down in its usual spot. It faded even further as she walked through the back door of her house and climbed upstairs to her bathroom, where she showered in water of an unknown temperature.
There are times in my life when I imagine this water scalding.
Other times, frozen.
Regardless, Lindy never came down for dinner.
She was likely thought by her parents to be yapping with friends on the telephone, twirling the cord around her young fingers, until her mother, a woman named Peggy, made her evening rounds with the laundry basket. It was then she saw a pair of underpants in the bathroom, dotted with bright red blood, lying next to a single running shoe. The other shoe, a blue Reebok, was missing.
By this time, her daughter Lindy was curled in her bed and concussed.
A bed that just that morning had been a child’s.
I should tell you now that I was one of the suspects.
Hear me out.
Let me explain.Revue de presse :
Praise for My Sunshine Away
“Try and restrain yourself from flying through the pages of this wonderful novel. Instead savor this lush Louisiana mystery that takes you back to what life tasted like when you were still somewhat naïve to the ways of the world. Not just Southern, but American in its vivid Baton Rouge colors and scents, treetops and grasses, My Sunshine Away is the story of how the events of our youth profoundly affect us as adults. The last page is as satisfying as the first. A mystery you cannot wait to solve.”—Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help
“My Sunshine Away is not a thriller; it is not genre fiction; but it's realism at its finest, and it is a page turner—a story made memorable in paragraph after paragraph by the brilliance of its author, and by the scope of the questions he asks as to how we live this life to the fullest as loving and moral beings. It’s about love, obsession, and pain. Such a beautiful book. Such a remarkable book. I can't praise it enough.”—Anne Rice, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Prince Lestat
“[A] wrenching and wondrous coming-of-age tale. Walsh’s debut novel is a mystery, a Louisiana mash note and a deeply compassionate, clear-eyed take on the addled teen-boy mind.”—People
“Excellent...Walsh has an innate knack for plot and suspense, but the real pleasure here is his prose. This stunning and gracefully written debut novel is a total page-turner until the very end.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Capable of making a reader cry...and scream...And yet, you’re never exhausted trying to piece together clues to solve the crime. The power of the book lies in its spot-on characters.”—Oprah.com
“[A] rich, unexpected, exceptional book...A gripping read that’s more than a thriller, more than a traditional Southern tale, My Sunshine Away is a brilliant meditation on the unpredictability and the lifelong effects of childhood events and relationships.”—Chicago Tribune
“My Sunshine Away is also simply, like Lee’s [To Kill a Mockingbird], a great work of fiction. It’s a page-turning thriller with a heartbreaking crime and an intriguing cast of suspects...[Walsh’s] haunting, lyrical novel will compel you to look back on your own life’s mysteries, your own childhood fog.”—The Fort Worth Star Telegram
“Recalls the best of Pat Conroy: the rich Southern atmosphere, the interplay of darkness and light in adolescence, the combination of brisk narrative suspense with philosophical musings on memory, manhood, and truth....Celebrate, fiction lovers: The gods of Southern gothic storytelling have inducted a junior member.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Suspenseful, compassionate, and absorbing, Walsh’s word-perfect rendering of the doubts, insecurities, bravado, and idealism of teens deserves to be placed in the hands of readers of Tom Franklin, Hannah Pittard, and Jeffrey Eugenides.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[A] gripping 300-page debut novel that is already one of the year’s most anticipated books...[P]itch perfect on details...Walsh [is] a master storyteller.”—The New Orleans Times Picayune
“M.O. Walsh's marvelous debut novel is so thick with searching nostalgia and melancholy, it gives the reader the same sense of authenticity and emotional satisfaction more typically associated with a good memoir. My Sunshine Away is the kind of novel you simply can't put down.”—Dallas Morning News
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