Aside from being absolutely obsessed with the beautiful cover of this book (those colors mixing together, and the simple silhouettes of the people and water tower in the background) I was also drawn to the synopsis for this. Because of the Sun sounds like such an emotional, powerful read, full of pain, acceptance, and looking for a place to call home.
As soon as I picked this book up, I was engrossed in it, and finished it in a single day. It was such a great read, and with the length of the book (only 272 pages), things were paced just right so that it held my attention and made it possible to fly right through this one. Because of the Sun didn’t even start off slow – it jumped right into an interesting (and quite bear-filled) story that set the stage for the rest of the novel.
“I learned not to get attached to people or places long ago. To simply get up and go without a care about who or what we left behind.”
Dani lives with her mother, traveling from place to place instead of ever really settling down for long. They moved often, with her mother always getting excited about their new place, saying how much better it was than the place they left behind. Dani’s mother also enjoyed getting boyfriends and drinking alcohol – and never really developed much of a relationship with her daughter, except to remind her that she only ever ruined her life.
Dani has grown accustomed to moving from place to place and never being close to her mother. So when her mom is violently killed while outside sunbathing, Dani doesn’t feel the emotions that one would expect her to. She briefly stays with her neighbor, and then finds out that her aunt, whom she never knew existed, would be taking her in and giving her a place to live. The only thing that Dani would need to do is move from her Florida home to New Mexico.
Since Dani is used to moving around, she just goes with it. She will have a place to stay, with this relative she did not even know about.
“I like the idea of nothing mattering, not deeply. Especially not memories. Memories can be just events if we take the emotion away.”
Dani’s aunt Shelly doesn’t know how to care for a teenage girl, especially one who just lost her mother and seems lost in life. At first the two of them do not talk much, especially when it comes down to Dani’s mother. Dani goes about her life, enjoying summer vacation as much as she can due to the circumstances, and starts taking long walks. Not accustomed to the summer heat in New Mexico, she faints, and she meets a boy her age named Paulo, when she visits his grandmother’s gas station. Over the course of the novel, Dani spends more and more time with Paulo and his grandmother, and feels a sort of comfort with him, because he has experienced a devastating loss, as well.
As time goes by and Dani starts to come out of her numbing fog and starts to really process that her mother is gone and that she is feeling so much grief, she and Shelly start to talk more, and Dani learns a lot about what family really is.
I will admit that there are parts about this book that I thought were a little strange, such as the events with the bear that Dani keeps seeing around. One of the scenes in the book that featured a bear had me wondering what was going on for a minute, but at the same time, the bear wasn’t just a bear – it symbolized something a lot deeper that Dani had to conquer in order to heal, so it was an essential part of the story.
As far as characters go, while I did have a bit of a hard time connecting to Dani at first, I think it was for the best honestly – she was numbed by her mother’s death and pulled into herself, making her a difficult character to figure out and get to know on a deeper level – until around the middle of the book, where we really got inside her head and started to understand the emotions she was feeling. While this would normally bother me about a book, in this case it kind of added to the story, because she had a lot of issues to deal with. It’s also through Dani that we get to know her mother a lot better, as well, as flashbacks are frequent in Because of the Sun.
Shelly’s character seems closed off when we first meet her, but as time wears on, we discover why. Shelly actually has a section of the book that is told in her perspective, and it sheds light on what life was like for her and Dani’s mother as teenagers. Here’s a hint – it isn’t pretty.
Although I do wish there would have been more interaction with Paulo, his character played a really important part in Dani’s story, and he really added to her. Paulo had his own issues to deal with – tragedies that we learn about toward the end of the book.
There was so much raw, gripping emotion in Because of the Sun, and it was a difficult book to read at times, but at the same time, it wasn’t something I could put down. I spent hours just in love with Dani and Shelly’s stories, and the more I read, the more I just felt like I knew their characters on a deeper level.
There was so much character development in this book, as it really was a character driven novel. Dani has to learn to come to terms with her mother’s death, and Shelly has to learn how to cope with her sister’s passing and having a niece that she has never known. Because of the Sun was such a beautiful and emotional read, and you can bet that I will adding Jenny Torres Sanchez to my list of authors that I will automatically purchase books from from now on!
About the Author
JENNY TORRES SANCHEZ is a full-time writer and former English teacher. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived on the border of two worlds her whole life. She lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and children.
Some Nifty Author Links
Q&A with Jenny Torres Sanchez
1. Where did you get the idea for Because of the Sun?
The idea for it came from a lot of different places actually. I sort of feel like this book has been coming to me for a long time now. The first real sign of it though, was a short story I wrote when I was about twenty years old. It was about a mother and daughter who didn’t get along and the mother is killed by a bear in the Alaskan woods. I never finished it but not too long ago, bear encounters where making news in Florida so the idea kind of came back and I started wondering how I could finish that story.
2. What was your writing routine like while writing the book?
With this book and pretty much with each book before it, I write every morning for several hours Monday through Friday. If I can, I carve out a few hours in the evening or weekends, and I work then also (especially if I have a deadline coming up). But my weekday morning writing sessions are pretty much set in stone.
3. Were any of the characters based on people you know in real life?
Not really, but yes if that makes any sense.J Dani and Paulo, not at all. But Paulo’s grandmother is inspired by the women in my life. The way she has survived her own hardships and helps others survive theirs, that reminds me of the tough women in my family and I can see their spirit in that character.
4. When you were writing Because of the Sun, did you already have everything that happens in the book outlined, or did you find yourself throwing in a few extra twists that you didn’t anticipate?
Oh, definitely throwing in things that I didn’t anticipate! I wish I were a good at following an outline but I’m pretty terrible at it. I feel like it would probably save me from the many wrong turns I end up taking (and I take a lot). But, I don’t know. I like taking those wrong turns and getting lost in the story. Sometimes those wrong turns take me down paths that become so crucial to the story and maybe I would never have found if I didn’t wander around a bit. I guess it works for me.
5. What are some of your favorite books?
Oh, man, that’s an impossible question. There are so many! Okay, so I love The Book Thief, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, The Stranger (of course!), Brown Girl Dreaming, The Outsiders, Where Things Come Back, Claire of the Sea Light, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Charming Billy and so many more. Oh, also not a book but one of my very favorite short stories is All Summer In a Day by Ray Bradbury.
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