Epicurious Best Foodie Reads Selection
Library Reads Pick
“A clever beach bag must-have” (People) from Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—“a smart, fun read about trying to live an authentic life in the age of social media overload” (PopSugar).
Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light. Sunshine is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until she gets hacked.
When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses her husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.
“A delightfully addictive page-turner” (WMagazine.com) that takes place in a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is “wickedly funny and gorgeously entertaining…there is no chance you won’t consume this golden summer read in one sitting” (Redbook.com).
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
You should probably know two things up front. And the first is this: On my thirty-fifth birthday—the day I lost my career and my husband and my home in one uncompromising swoop—I woke up to one of my favorite songs playing on the radio alarm clock. I woke up to “Moonlight Mile” playing on the radio (where it is almost never played) and actually thought, as you only would think if you’re a total fool (or, perhaps, if you were about to lose your career and your husband and your home in one uncompromising swoop): The world, my world, is good.
I stayed in bed, in my fresh Frette sheets (a birthday present to myself), the sunlight drifting through the windows, the air chilly and light. And I listened to the entire song, crooning assuredly through my apartment.
Are you familiar with the song “Moonlight Mile”? It’s a Rolling Stones song—not nearly as popular as their ubiquitous “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or as wedding-song-sticky as “Wild Horses.” “Moonlight Mile” is just the most honest rock song ever recorded. I don’t offer that as my personal opinion. I share that as fact: an inarguable fact, which you should twist into your brain and heart so that when someone argues the virtues of a different song as the epitome of greatness (prepare for the Beatles, who naturally arise as a challenge to the Stones), you can smile and quietly think, I know better. It’s nice to know better. It’s nice to know that when you hear the closing guitar riff of “Moonlight Mile,” what you’re actually hearing is a piece of music so soft and difficult, so dangerous and quiet, so full of life and death and love, that just below its surface, the song is telling you a secret—a secret that I was just starting to understand—about everything that matters in this world, everything that grounds us and eventually leaves us, all at once.
The tricky part is that the song was the product of an all night jam session between Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. It was Taylor who had taken a short guitar piece recorded by Keith Richards and reworked it for the session. And it was Taylor’s idea to add a string arrangement to the final song. The legend goes that Taylor, for good reason, was promised a songwriting credit. But “Moonlight Mile” was officially credited to Jagger/Richards. Keith Richards would later deny Taylor’s involvement at all, and say that Mick Jagger delivered the song to the band all on his own.
Normally, if you were to ask me about this, I’d say: Who cares? The credit didn’t matter, what mattered was the song. Taylor kept playing with the band, so he’d let it go.
Except on the morning in question—the morning of my thirty-fifth birthday, the morning of my crisp Frette sheets, of rightness in the world—the injustice of Mick Taylor’s omission was at the forefront of my mind, and I looked him up on my phone.
Considering what was about to happen to my world, it was odd that this was the moment I focused on Taylor. Call it foreshadowing, call it intuition. For the first time, I found myself sympathizing with him. Even though, in my particular story, I’m not the guy you root for. I’m not Mick Taylor. I’m not even Mick Jagger.
I’m Keith Richards, getting credit and telling lies from outside the room.
I heard a groan next to me. “Didn’t you make a rule about phones in bed?”
I turned to see my husband, waking up, yawning for effect. Danny Walker: Iowa raised, strong chin, fearless. His eyes were still closed, his long eyelashes (thick lashes, like someone had tinted them, slathered them with rich mascara) clasped tightly together.
“You can’t even see my phone,” I said.
“I don’t have to, I can feel it,” he said.
He opened his eyes, stunning green eyes, those lashes surrounding them like a web. I resented those lashes, those eyes. Danny was more naturally beautiful than any woman would ever figure out how to be. Especially his wife. And while some women might have been okay with that, proud even, or so blissfully in love they didn’t keep score, I was not one of those women. I kept score. I hadn’t always, but somewhere along the way I started to. Which maybe was part of the problem. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“It’s your rule,” he said, pointing at the phone. “Shut it off.”
“That’s the first thing you want to say to me today?” I said.
“Happy birthday.” He smiled, his great smile. “Shut it off.”
He moved his hand down my stomach, his touch ice cold. Our apartment was an old converted loft in Tribeca (recently photographed for Architectural Digest), a few blocks off the Hudson River, and freezing in the morning. No matter the season, no matter June’s gnarly heat. It was freezing. It was also oddly loud, the noises from the highway and the river comingling to remind you there was nowhere else in the world in quite the same identity crisis. It was by far the nicest place we’d lived together—a large step up from the first place we’d shared at the University of Oregon. A garden apartment, the landlord had called it. He was right in that you could see the garden from the basement windows that looked up toward it.
There were three apartments after that, but none of them had the loft’s corner windows—with views of the Hudson River and Battery Park—making everything in New York look beautiful.
I tossed my phone to the side of the bed, tossed Mick Taylor to the side.
“Good. Let’s start again, then. Happy birthday, baby,” he said. And, for a second, I wondered if he’d been thinking the same thing about our real estate past, our shared history.
He started to kiss me, and I stopped thinking. All these years in, I could still get lost in it. Lost in Danny. How many people, fourteen years in, could say that? And, yes, I’m glossing over the other part—the part where that took a hit. But I had vowed to change all that. And, at this particular moment, I was dedicated to changing all that. Very dedicated.
Danny moved on top of me, his hands working their way down my thighs, when I heard it. My phone beeped from the side of the bed, a bright and shiny email notification coming across its screen.
I flinched, instinctively wanting to grab it. It could have been important. A hundred and fifty people worked on my show; it usually was.
Danny peered at the phone out of the corner of his eye. “How is that putting your phone away?”
“I’ll be really quick,” I said. “Promise.”
He forced a smile, moving away. “No, you won’t,” he said.
I flipped to my inbox screen, and there was the email.
The subject line was simple enough.
I didn’t recognize the sender’s email address. So I almost didn’t open it. I like to tell myself that if I hadn’t, I could have stopped everything that came next.
Door one: Sunshine Mackenzie ignores the email, has birthday sex with her husband, and life goes on as usual. Door two: Sunshine pushes her husband aside and opens an email from someone called Aintnosunshine, and life as she knows it ends.
Let’s guess which door I took.
Do you know who this is? Here’s a hint: I’m about to ruin you.
I laughed, a little loudly. After all, it was such a ridiculous email. So incredibly over-the-top, like the spam you get from Nigeria asking you to send your bank account information.
“What’s so funny?” Danny said.
I shook my head. “Nothing. Just a silly email.”
“They usually are.”
This was a point of friction between us. Whereas my entire career existed online, Danny was an architect and sometimes didn’t even check his email more than a couple times a day. He’d learned how to contain it, disregarding ridiculous emails from difficult clients, who were obsessed with their Gramercy Park brownstones, their Bowery rooftops. He’d learned how to contain it, so he could get the work done for them. It was a skill that his wife, apparently, had yet to learn.
I turned back to my phone.
“All right. You’ve chosen,” he said.
Then he pulled the blankets back, got out of bed.
“No!” I said. And I reached to pull him back down. “Danny! Please come back. That’s a birthday order.”
He laughed. “Nope, too late.”
Then the next email came in.
Do you think I was kidding? I’m not the kidding type.
Some would even say humorless: www.twitter.com/sunshinecooks
This stopped me cold. Why did he choose the word humorless? (At that moment in time, knowing nothing, I thought the hacker was a he.) It was a specific word. It was also a word I used often.
So I clicked on the link.
And there was my verified Twitter account staring back at me.
There was my profile complete with a photograph of me in my studio kitchen—wearing a peasant blouse and strategically distressed jeans, my blond hair swept off my face in a loose bun.
Cooking for a New Generation. Host of #alittlesunshine. NY Times bestselling Author: #afarmersdaughter, #farmtothenewyorktable & (coming soon!) #sunkissed
And a new tweet to my 2.7 million followers.
Apparently from me.
I’m a fraud. #aintnosunshine
I must have let out a gasp, because Danny turned. “What?”
“I think I was hacked,” I said.
“What are you talking about?”
He walked back over to the bed to see for himself. I quickly pulled the phone away. Even in the chaos, I still had an instinct to control it, keep it close. And, of course, to keep it away from him.
“You know what? It’s nothing.”
“Sunny . . .”
“Danny, I’m forwarding it to Ryan now. He’ll deal with it. It’s his job.”
Danny looked unconvinced. Fourteen years. He knew things. “Are you sure?”
I forced a smile and repeated that all was well. So he nodded, walked away.
First, though, he leaned down to kiss me. A sweet kiss. A birthday kiss. Not the sex that we’d been close to, but something. Something lovely.
Which was when the phone’s bright light shined again, another tweet coming in.
Let me stop there, though.
Before we got the next tweet, the next hack, before we got to what it said. The thing that led to the demise of my career, my home, my marriage.
You remember how I told you that there were two things you should know right up front?
The first was how it happened. On the morning of my thirty-fifth birthday, “Moonlight Mile” welcomed me to my day, my husband still loved me, and then the email came in. The start of something I couldn’t stop.
The second thing you should know? I was not (certainly at that moment in time) a good person. Some would even say I was a bad person. And everything this emailer—the hacker, the imploder of my perfect life—had to say about me was the truth.
See how I told you how it happened first? Garnering sympathy. Take that as proof of the second.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Hello, Sunshine includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Laura Dave. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Sunshine Mackenzie is a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.
And then she gets hacked.
When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses her husband, her YouTube show, her fans, and her dream apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does in the ashes of her own destruction may just save her life.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In chapter 1, Sunshine confides in the reader that she keeps score on the ways Danny’s beauty compared to hers. In what ways are we all tempted to “keep score” of the goings on around us?
2. Sunshine tells the reader that they need to know two things, the second being that she’s a “bad person.” Why do you think she feels that way? Do you think Sunshine is a bad person, or a person who’s behaved badly? Did your opinion change as you continued reading?
3. Ryan prefers the term “the story” over the words “lie” or “truth.” How do you think the human impulse toward storytelling allows us to soften our version of events?
4. In chapter 4, Sunshine confesses that sometimes not performing for Danny feels “like the hardest performance of all.” Why do you think authenticity, or the gaze of a loving observer, sometimes feels harder than artifice?
5. Sunshine posits in chapter 6 that the one thing women don’t want to forgive is another adulterous woman. Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Do you think female adulterers suffer more judgment than male adulterers?
6. Sunshine describes Montauk as a “show that didn’t look like one, which was a show all in itself.” When you watch TV, which worlds seem the most authentic to you? Think about the Food Network or daytime talk shows—“reality” TV—and divulge which ones tap into your expectations of authenticity.
7. Chapter 20 opens with Sunshine suggesting that readers may expect this to be a story about a woman realizing that her childhood home is where she always belonged. Were you expecting the narrative to turn out that way? Were you expecting to be called out on that assumption by the narrator? What did you think of that challenge to your own narrative expectations?
8. Eventually, Sunshine realizes that she had already chosen her dream over her marriage. Have you ever looked back at a moment and realized something about your own motivations that you hadn’t at the time? Could you relate more to Sunshine in the present or past??
9. Sunshine and Rain have a fraught relationship; why do you think the author chose to make them contentious instead of using a “loving long-lost sister” trope?
10. Sunshine realizes on page  that her curated photos with Danny might have sent the message to him that “the way it actually was hadn’t been enough.” Has there ever been a time when you’ve sent misleading messages to friends or family, using social media or some other means?
11. Sunshine is tempted—even prepared—to lie to Chef Z about what happened with Amber and the peaches, but she doesn’t. Do you agree with her sentiment that when you’re out of practice, lying can be “almost as hard as telling the truth?”
12. Ethan brings a lot of clarity to Sunshine’s life, especially his thoughts on the word “curate.” Were you rooting for them to connect romantically? Or were you hoping Danny would forgive Sunshine and welcome her home?
13. Sunshine comes to realize that she and her father—and likely her sister—all had their rules about living that allowed them to hide from their insecurities. In what other ways do people try to run or hide from the fear that they’re not good enough? Do you think everyone fears the same inadequacies?
14. Where you pleased with the novel’s resolution? Did it align with your expectations or hopes for Sunshine when you started reading?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club
1. Sunshine’s worst day opens with her hearing her favorite song on the radio: “Moonlight Mile” by the Rolling Stones. Listen to “Moonlight Mile” and then share your own favorite songs, the ones that make you feel the most alive and yourself.
2. There are plenty of recipes to choose from while planning your book club, but the famous Tomato Pie sounds like the simplest and best. Try hosting a tomato pie competition, in which a couple of members of your book club try their hand at a recipe.
3. In chapter 9, Sunshine says she prefers bourbon with just a little ice to the mint julep she and Ryan dubbed “the dreamers drink.” Serve both and discuss which you each prefer.
4. Sunshine has a major turning point with Chef Z when she’s able to be honest that the fennel doesn’t taste good. Fennel is a very distinct vegetable—try some and discuss whether it’s to your individual tastes or not.
5. If you have social media, take turns explaining the curation of one of your posts. Did you pose it? How did you caption it? What message were you trying to send? How did it align with your real, lived experience?
A Conversation with Laura Dave
When Ryan and Sunshine first meet, he tells her that “what people think is all that matters.” Is there any way in which you agree with him? Or do you think Ryan’s a villain of sorts?
Ryan is a producer and, in terms of his job, he isn’t entirely wrong. He’s in the business of selling a person’s image and he has been quite integral in Sunny’s success because he was able to put forth a compelling image of who she was.
On page , you write “. . . that was the key to lying, wasn’t it? Believing it yourself?” Do you think that’s true?
I’m amazed by people who lie easily—even when the people around them know they are lying. Do they believe their lies? To a degree they must. Or, perhaps, they’ve also just gotten to a place where they don’t care about the difference between lying and the truth—they just care about getting what they need out of a given situation.
One page , Ryan opines that everyone is a fraud, and certainly everyone with a public profile. Do you think that’s true? How does society encourage these frauds? Do you have a favorite fraud?
In today’s world, telling the truth isn’t rewarded the way it should be. The story is rewarded. With social media, you are always selling a story about who you are. There is a cost to these small lies, to the need to present yourself in a certain light in order to stay in the public eye. Maybe the cost has always been there, though it feels heightened because of the pervasiveness of broadcasting your life in real time.
Do you think pretending is different from lying? Or are they really the same concept? If they differ, how so?
That’s really the question at the center of the novel. It is a fine line many people walk in order to live a public life, but it’s a tricky line.
You write lovingly about the seaside town of Montauk on Long Island. What about it spoke to you strongly enough to place Sunshine’s origin story there?
I love towns on the end of the world, especially beach towns. You can’t be anonymous in the same way, and you can’t pretend in the same way, which felt like a perfect backdrop to tell the story of someone like Sunny, who is running from herself.
Sammy has her own priorities that often compete with the priorities of the adults in charge of her. Was there a real-life inspiration for Sammy? If not, what inspired you to come up with such a fully realized young person?
Thank you—happy you felt that way about her. In writing about Sammy, I had a clear idea of someone that Sunny was trying to save. I think the nice turn there for Sunny, and hopefully for the readers, is Sunny and Sammy end up saving each other.
During Sunshine’s big fight with Rain, she can’t stop herself from saying something she knows crosses the line. Why do you think that moment is so tempting to her? How was it to write that scene, to allow your characters to follow their worst impulses?
It was a tough scene because it was a turning point for them. Siblings love each other and often hurt each other because they know each other so well. In some ways, Sunshine and Rain needed that moment to remember they were siblings. To say the things they’ve been holding back. They needed that fight to find the other side of it.
What do you think the perfect meal is? Is it achievable, or always out of reach, like Ryan and the producers want the audience to think? What constitutes the perfect meal to you?
A farm-fresh meal, cooked for family and friends—everyone enjoying a little wine, a few laughs—is pretty wonderful. I love to serve the strawberry sofrito pizza, which Chef Z makes in the novel. It’s based on a great pizza from a restaurant in Napa Valley. You’ll want to have friends over to share it, or you’ll end up gobbling down the entire thing yourself. Which, of course, is it’s own form of wonderful.
Sunshine realizes she’s mistaken about running away from your former selves. Do you think it’s even possible to leave a former self behind? Or do you think people carry those identities along with them?
I think it is very common to want to reinvent yourself, to push aside the versions of yourself you wish had made different decisions. Though we are who we are—and staying familiar with the different people you have been is always the way to move forward, to avoid the same mistakes. To become the happiest version of yourself.
Hello, Sunshine is your fifth novel. How was writing it distinct from writing the others? Did you find it posed its own unique challenges? What did you learn from writing this book?
Sunshine Mackenzie is what made it different. She is tough and pretty hard to take if you’re looking at her foibles on paper. I knew that going in, though it was a different thing to actually put Sunshine in the spotlight! Still, I worked to make her relatable. After all, no one is all good or bad. And while in so many ways, she is my opposite, finding compassion for her was a great and fun challenge.
What are you working on next?
I’m writing my new novel, which is a lot of fun. Without spilling too many of the beans, I will say it’s about someone that reconnects with a crush from when they were young in a surprising way.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
unique story approach and style
Hello Sunshine was a book I have been waiting all year to read. The promise of a you tube star that falls from grace in a very social media exposing has the makings of a juicy unputdownable novel. From the start of reading this book it felt very addicting. Almost like you were reading a gossip magazine from a disgraced starlets point of view. The sacrifices Sunshine had to go through to restore not only her relationships but find out who she truly is in the process are incredibly eye opening. It really makes you think about how much of our lives are now out in the open on social media. This book was very reminiscent of Christmas in Connecticut with a modern twist. While I enjoyed this novel I am giving it three stars because I felt the ending could have been wrapped up differently. It felt hurried and left me wanting answers. Regardless of this I highly recommend you give it a go. You just might enjoy it. :)
I was so excited to read Laura Dave’s newest book because I loved Eight Hundred Grapes so much when I read it couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like Hello, Sunshine. The main character, Sunshine, has lied her way into her own YouTube cooking series, A Little Sunshine. She’s got a book deal, and she’s about to have her own Food Network TV show…until she gets hacked. Someone shares the truth of her origins and her affair with her producer, and then everything falls apart. There were two things I didn’t like about this book, and almost nothing that I did like. First, Sunshine loses everything because her lies were exposed, but yet she thinks the solution to her problems is to keep lying. Ugh. She was so annoying. And then second, I didn’t like the way this book was written. It starts by saying that Sunshine lost everything in one night – her career and her husband, and then it takes 30% of the book to tell that part of the story. I was pretty bored during that 30%. At about 50% the book gets a little bit better. Sunshine goes home to stay with her sister, and I did kind of enjoy their relationship and the family drama. But mostly I just liked that finally this book had some characters I didn’t completely hate. Rain, the sister, and her daughter, Sammy, are pretty great. Their lives are hard, but they’re trying to make things work. Plus a local fisherman enters the picture, and he tells it like it is and doesn’t take any crap from Sunshine. I liked that. I’m writing this review before actually finishing the book, but I don’t think it will redeem itself much for me. Plus I rate books on the full reading experience, and not just the ending. I wish I had enjoyed this book more, but it was too shallow and petty for my taste. I still want to read some of Laura Dave’s older novels, but I won’t be recommending this latest one to anyone, sadly. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-hello-sunshine-by-laura-dave/
Thank you to the publisher, Simon Schuster, for providing me with an arc review copy! All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I first finished this book last night and I was going to write a review immediately after but I just couldn't make up my mind on how I feel about this book. On one hand, I loved it and couldn't put it down (I read it straight through in 2.5 hours). On the other hand, the theme and ending slightly irritated me. So let's get into it, shall we? 1. The characters. Generally speaking, I really liked the characters. They fit the story well and had adequate development. I do wish there was more on the husband, though. It just seemed like there wasn't that much live-in background. There was a lot of told background but it's biased toward Sunny because it's told from her perspective. I enjoyed how the author decided to make one of the characters more nuanced with their decision to oust Sunny. I think it was such a great choice and one that I didn't see coming! It also served to make the book less about finding a villain and more about Sunny's introspection. I also enjoyed reading Sunny's interactions with her sister, Rain. Learning about Sunny's past and how it played into her current attitude about life was really interesting. 2. The plot. The plot is true to the blurb it really was a fascinating story (exhibit A: I couldn't put the book down). I do wish there was a little more on what Sunny's life was like before the hack (again, we get a lot of discussion flashback but not too many true flashback scenes). The first two chapters also seemed to go on forever with Sunny's internal comments on what she should have done. It's totally fine to open a book with that kind of talk but after 3 pages it gets kind of old. The ending was also kind of unsatisfactory for me. The villain was first presented as a cookie cutter, flat character. Then, at the end, suddenly they become wake-up call/savior which I really wasn't buying. It was a lightswitch sort of change and it felt very orchestrated. I do want to say that I approve of the choice of villain, I just don't agree at all with their methods. It was all just a little drastic and fantastical even if it did end the way it should have. The middle, though, really shined. I think once the author got warmed up, there was no stopping her. The development of Sunny's character through her struggles to find herself again is so well-written. 3. The romance (or should I say lack-there-of). This is perhaps my favorite part of this own reading experience. The author chose not to clicheify the story and add in a new romance after the fall-out of the hacker. There was plenty of opportunity but it wasn't really acted upon. I truly dislike it when authors add in unnecessary romance because they think it's necessary and I'm so glad Ms. Dave didn't fall into that trap. 4. The theme. This was a little weird for me. Since I'm on the very front end of the Gen X generation, I've grown up as technology has and I haven't lived a day without it. The whole theme is centered around having an authentic life and whether it's possible to display it on social media without starting to curate your image. The message at the end of the book (as you can probably guess) is that it isn't possible which I would argue to the contrary. The Final Verdict: This is a novel that raises good discussion points although the edges are slightly shaky. 4 stars
A sarcastically amusing read about truth and lies, in all its forms. Sunny Mackenzie's entire professional life is a lie, which eventually bleeds into her personal life until she loses herself altogether. This is a story of finding oneself, amidst the lies, the small ones that lead to the big ones that eventually take us over. Dave really makes you think about how this pertains to us today in the social media world, where "Everyone's the New York Post, posting the catchiest headline they can think of. A little imagination and you can make yourself the story of the day....(but we're) still trying to figure out what we all lost in broadcasting our lives for everyone else's consumption." In this light hearted and saucy novel, Dave has us really thinking about how we put ourselves out there to others, why, and ultimately who actually cares! She has a fabulous voice as Sunny, and as messed up as she made her life, there's still an authentic person in there that makes you root for her. Terrific read, fun, perfectly timely and thought provoking. *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
Wow, someone has taken Sunshine MacKenzie and ruined her career all over social media. All her lies that have been made up to become the You Tube sensation that she is have been discovered and they want the world to know. A definite eye opening experience for the main character of this book. One minute she's a hot sensation, the next she's nothing. She loses her career, husband, persona and herself. The poor thing then returns to her roots and she is shunned by the only family she has left. I really felt for this character. This was a great story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This would make a great beach read. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Sunny warns you right from the start: she's a terrible person. Then she follows this up by admitting her confession is basically an attempt to manipulate us to sympathizing for her. It shouldn't work but it did. I could not help but root for Sunny, as I wondered if she was capable of change. Can a liar change its stripes? Especially when they're forced to changed? I loved Dave's novel Eight Hundred Grapes and was expecting this to be in a similar vein. It's not. Eight Hundred Grapes was a meditation on romance and synchronicity, while Hello Sunshine peels back the curtain of what happens when social media takes over our lives instead of the other way around. It was compulsively readable. I positively inhaled it, so curious as to see how the events in Sunny's life would play out. With each character introduced, I wondered how they fit into her new life and whether they could be part of her redemption or her undoing. Sunny wasn't always a liar. It started out small, the lies built on one another, and before she knew it, she was queen of a YouTube cooking empire. Everything serves to feed that beast but all it takes is her Twitter account being hacked for the empire to collapse. Sunny loses it all- her show, her husband, her apartment. And it's what she does from there that makes this novel so compelling. How does one start over in the age of social media? Do you manipulate your image or walk away from your accounts altogether? Do you shape the narrative or do you let the chips fall where they lie? This aspect of the novel was incredibly thought-provoking. I haven't read Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed yet but I imagine it would pair well with this. Sunny's attempt to reinvent herself involves slinking back to her estranged sister in their childhood home. She has to confront the memories of their complicated past, while getting to know her precocious 6 year old niece. The two sisters must consider whether they can make amends or whether Sunny will leave them high and dry like she did the last time. All the while, we are left with the mystery of who hacked Sunny and why. When we finally learn the culprit, I was genuinely shocked and this paired with another unexpected twist gave me mixed feelings. Ultimately, however, Dave wove these threads together into an enjoyable story, one that remained true to life. Happy endings aren't guaranteed for us. It matters more what we do with our every day, ordinary lives. Especially those like Sunny who have glimpsed extraordinary lives and must figure out who they are and what they're willing to do to scrabble back to the top. Sunny warned us she's not a nice person but in the end, she was lying even about that. Now there's a heroine worth rooting for. This would be a perfect beach read and I can see a book club discussion taking its themes in interesting places. Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
On Sunshine's 35th birthday she loses everything! She is the host of a youtube cooking show but she can not cook! She uses someone else's recipes and her entire show is a lie! On her 35th birthday someone exposes her for the liar she is. She loses her job, her husband, and her apartment! Sunshine returns home to the Hampton's and her sister's home. Can Sunshine rebuild her life after living such a lie? It is a really good book about family, forgiveness, and redemption. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.