<em>The Sun in Your Eyes</em> by Deborah Shapiro. William Morrow| June 28, 2016| 279 pages | $25.99| ISBN: 9780062435583
There’s that saying that you can’t tell a book by its cover. Book covers visually connect a potential reader to the book. The cover image makes you wonder what the book will be about. A beautiful, cool book cover sets expectations. On the cover of The Sun in Your Eyes is a photo of two women with a definite 70s rocker chic. What’s going on between these two women? It’s a 1974 photograph by William Eggleston and drew me right in. I’d also just seen the photo in the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me which features this photo. The blonde was Alex Chilton’s girlfriend.
In this novel, two former friends reconnect to take a road trip. In college, Vivian Feld met Lee Parrish—the daughter of famed singer/songwriter Jesse Parrish, who died when Lee was four years-old as well as model-turned-fashion designer Linda West. Vivian didn’t really know anything about Jesse Parrish but their other roommate Andy quickly introduced her to his music. Author Deborah Shapiro provides poignant, visceral descriptions of Jesse’s music: “Melancholy strumming of an acoustic guitar and a voice: boyish and bell-like but one that easily slipped into a gritty, growling lower register, occasionally within the same phrasing.” Then there’s Lee’s fascinating and successful mother Linda West. Shapiro writes: “Linda’s candor and freedom, the space she luxuriously floated in, amazed me. My own parents seemed so constrained in comparison. They had done such an excellent job shielding from me their inner lives that I had naturally concluded they didn’t have very rich or complicated ones.”
During college, Lee introduces Vivian to an impressively rock star lifestyle. More than a decade later when Lee contacts Vivian she’s married to Andy. Lee is in search of some unpublished music. “The tapes. The last, lost tapes of Jesse Parrish. One of the mysteries attendant to her father’s puzzling and premature death, only enhancing his cult status. The legend that illuminated Lee and enshrouded her.” This might be what it’s like to be Frances Bean Cobain, connected to the genius musician father you never particularly knew. Lee struggles with depression, identity and finding her independence. To these topics I could particularly relate even if I didn’t have a famous parent. At one point Lee states: “It sucks when you’ve aged out of the time when it’s still socially acceptable not to have things figured out. And you haven’t yet reached the age when it’s socially acceptable that whatever you thought you had figured out starts to unravel.” Exactly. Such truth. Not everyone knows what they want to do with their lives. Not everyone figures everything out or follow a linear path.
Of the two women I could most related to Lee. While I appreciated the women’s connection, Vivian’s relationship with Andy and her TV writing career didn’t particularly interest me. Shapiro delves into the women’s college friendship and its connection to the present. She offers insight, detail and vivid descriptions that allow the reader to understand each woman, their bond and reliance upon one another. Women’s bonds often become broken due to relationships with men (or marriage and families). To this many women (and likely men) will relate. Vivian’s relationship and later marriage to Andy created a rift between the friends. The road trip allows the women to examine their friendship and determine whether or not they should rekindle their friendship, however tumultuous it may have been at times. Jealousy and differing goals certainly pushed and pulled at its core. Glowing descriptions and striking writing comparable to Lionel Shriver propel the story. It’s witty and observant and poignant. This novel swirls and engulfs you like a good song. If you are a music fan or you are a GenXer you’ll likely truly enjoy this novel as I did.
–review by Amy Steele