SheKnows book review: Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Over the past few years, Sunny and Maxon Mann have been growing increasingly far apart emotionally, and now that Maxon is on his way to the moon, they are as far apart as they have ever been physically. As they continue to move away from one another, twin collisions will change the course of their lives forever.

Deep in darkness, there was a tiny light. Inside the light, he floated in a spaceship. It felt cold to him, floating there. Inside his body, he felt the cold of space.

shine shine shine cover

So begins Lydia Netzer’s debut novel about a family who must learn to be stronger together than they are individually. Sunny Mann’s husband, Maxon Mann, is a genius and a robotics engineer who has been tasked by NASA with delivering a payload of robots to the moon so that they may begin work on the first human moon colony. While Maxon is in orbit, Sunny is maintaining her guise as the perfect wife, mother and homemaker, even as she deals with a terminally ill mother, an autistic toddler and the end stages of pregnancy.

Despite all of these pressures, Sunny seems to have everything in her life pretty well together — at least until the car accident that knocks off her wig. Sunny has been completely bald since birth for reasons that no doctors can pinpoint. For years she went without a wig, but when she and Maxon conceived their son, Bubber, and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, she underwent the transformation to the perfect suburban wife and mother, complete with coiffed blonde wig and stuck-on eyelashes and eyebrows. When the other car strikes Sunny’s, she and Bubber are not seriously injured, but Sunny’s wig flies out the window, and with it, all her pretentions of normalcy.

Sunny’s terrestrial accident is mirrored by a similar collision in space. The object that strikes Maxon’s rocket is much smaller than the car that struck Sunny’s, but if anything, the consequences for all of their lives are even more potentially dire.

Shine Shine Shine is an exquisitely written debut novel about family. All of Netzer’s characters are quirky and unique, as well as damaged. Not every novel features a bald Caucasian woman, born in Burma, who is married to a rocket scientist on the autism spectrum. Even so, Shine Shine Shine is never quirky for the sake of quirkiness — Sunny, Maxon and all of the supporting characters are fully fledged and realistic so that they draw the reader in almost immediately with their strong and life-like voices. A story of personal growth and discovery that is unlike any you have read before, Shine Shine Shine will not fail to entertain and move you.

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