Author: Deborah Shapiro
Genre: general fiction
Published: expected June 28 2016
Source: TLC Book Tour for review
A witty and winning new voice comes alive in this infectious road trip adventure with a rock-and-roll twist. Shapiro’s debut blends the emotional nuance of Elena Ferrante with the potent nostalgia of High Fidelity, in a story of two women—one rich and alluring, the other just another planet in her dazzling orbit—and their fervid and troubled friendship.
From the distance of a few yards, there might be nothing distinctive about Lee Parrish, nothing you could put your finger on, and yet, if she were to walk into a room, you would notice her. And if you were with her, I’d always thought, you could walk into any room.
For quiet, cautious and restless college freshman Vivian Feld real life begins the day she moves in with the enigmatic Lee Parrish—daughter of died-too-young troubadour Jesse Parrish and model-turned-fashion designer Linda West—and her audiophile roommate Andy Elliott.
When a one-night stand fractures Lee and Andy’s intimate rapport, Lee turns to Viv, inviting her into her glamorous fly-by-night world: an intoxicating mix of Hollywood directors, ambitious artists, and first-class everything. It is the beginning of a friendship that will inexorably shape both women as they embark on the rocky road to adulthood.
More than a decade later, Viv is married to Andy and hasn’t heard from Lee in three years. Suddenly, Lee reappears, begging for a favor: she wants Viv to help her find the lost album Jesse was recording before his death. Holding on to a life-altering secret and ambivalent about her path, Viv allows herself to be pulled into Lee’s world once again. But the chance to rekindle the magic and mystery of their youth might come with a painful lesson: While the sun dazzles us with its warmth and brilliance, it may also blind us from seeing what we really need.
What begins as a familiar story of two girls falling under each other’s spell evolves into an evocative, and at times irrepressibly funny, study of female friendship in all its glorious intensity and heartbreaking complexity.
This was a twisty and complicated tale of college-age and then adult female friendship, told smartly over different points of time from 1996 to 2016, using various voices involved with both the main characters of Viv and Lee. The Sun in Your Eyes is a shorter novel, coming in at just under three hundred pages total, but Deborah Shapiro is a clever writer. Her approach to writing toxic friendships and tangled histories makes for an engaging and interesting afternoon's read.
As I said, Shapiro is clever and that extends to how she frames and uses her narrative over the course of the book. She jumps around in time, changes POVs and then rewrites the known history with a new eye. It makes reading The Sun in Your Eyes an unpredictable and inventive experience; you never know where the story is going, or how it will change from paragraph to paragraph or person to person.
Ostensibly the story is set around Lee finding her dead famous father's missing recordings, but, to be frank, that's the MacGuffin. That's just the push needed to get Lee and Viv reunited after a mysterious break. Because The Sun in Your Eyes is wholeheartedly the complicated story of Viv-and-Lee's friendship and dynamic, but also the story of Viv and Andy, and of Lee and Andy. It's a tangled mess of love and friendship and anger, but it's one that is handled deftly and explored creatively.
Lee's voice is immediately distinguishable from Viv, but that's not the only difference in the two women's presentation and how the express themselves. Lee is reminiscent of the title; she's the sun in your eyes -- bright but blinding if you focus only on it. Viv never really seems to see all of her friend's sides, doesn't really look right at her. Lee remains an elusive and remote element, even when the story is from her perspective. Both women are introspective and spend a lot of time contemplating various stages in life and how it relates to current relationships, but the story is at its best when the two are together. Their banter and interplay is that of two people who know each other intimately, for good or ill.
The Sun in Your Eyes reminded me somewhat of Robin Wasserman's recent Girls on Fire, but perhaps a more nuanced and introspective version. Complicated and clever, this slowly-unfurling story makes for an impressive introduction to Deborah Shapiro. Her writing is smart and original, creative and unique.