Sunnyside up, and down

Mary Carter’s Sunnyside Blues is not the page-turner you hope it could be. But give it time, and it will turn into a heartwarming read

By Poonam Chawla

Published: Fri 4 Dec 2009, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

Sunnyside Blues by Mary Carter is not one of those great books you fall in love with straight away. Rather the novel is a mysterious and unpredictable read that asks a lot of the reader with every turn of a page.

It is a decent slice of fiction that follows the trials and tribulations of 25-year-old Andes Lane, a woman who has spent the last nine years moving restlessly from place to place as she searches for somewhere she can call home and finally find peace in her life.

A tranquil dock in sunny Seattle, USA, sets the scene for Andes to meet her landlord, Jay, and his 10-year-old son Chase, a smart, secretive and precocious young lad.

Chase touches a chord with Andes even as he plays on her last nerve, and she, in spite of all the trouble he gives her, begins to show some maternal feelings of love and admiration towards him.

However, their world is turned upside down after Jay, in one of his drunken rants, finds himself in jail for punching a police officer. To make matters worse, the cops discover that there are warrants out for Jay’s arrest in another state.

Facing jail time, Jay asks Andes to look after Chase temporarily, until the boy’s family can come and take care of him. This, however, turns out to be a lie as Chase’s family passed away many years ago.

A victim of Jay’s emotional blackmail, Andes cannot refuse her landlord’s request for help in his hour of need and suddenly finds herself forced into the role of surrogate mother, a role she is not keen to play.

However, when a visit to Chase’s biological mother in search of some much needed cash proves to be waste of time, Andes agrees to accompany the boy to Sunnyside Queens on a quest she is sure will prove to be futile for both of them.

You can’t help but feel that Andres’ character must be a little crazy based on what she has let herself get into. Her willingness to become a ‘stand-in mother’ at the drop of a hat throws her back-story of being a drifter into some doubt.

The novel is let down by Carter’s lack of exact details concerning Andes’ background. This would have revealed more about her character and helped to justify her actions.

Carter is too quick to give us an insight into Andes’ strange past of deadly snakes and religious cults, which doesn’t really help to address any concerns about her.

Despite this, the story picks up pace when Chase and Andes arrive in Sunnyside Queens and begin to depend on each other for their day-to-day survival.

Chase begins to trust Andes, and she in turn starts to care about him and they develop a strong bond. Their love/hate relationship is a great adventure into the human psyche.

Carter ends the novel well, allowing Andes to face her demons and ultimately discover a place that feels like the home she’s been searching for.

Carter’s writing style is unusual in that all of her characters are misfits and rebels, but she is able to make us fall in love with them and care about how their lives turn out through the course of the book.

It’s clear that Sunnyside Blues is not for everyone. The novel asks a lot of the reader, as you have to be patient and remain inquisitive enough to want to keep turning the pages all the way to the finale.

Despite this, it is essentially a sweet, charming story that manages to set your pulse racing with some fantastic, albeit fleeting, moments.

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