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The Sunshine When She's Gone    by Thea Goodman order for
Sunshine When She's Gone
by Thea Goodman
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Veronica and John Reed have not had a good night's sleep since their baby daughter was born six months before. Although they are in their thirties and have been married for several years, neither one can seem to come to terms with how much their lives have been changed by becoming parents. They both love baby Clara to distraction, but the nightly visits that John makes into her room to check on her awaken her, and Veronica resents the extra care that she must then give to the baby. Communication between the couple has been unsatisfactory and their sexual life has become nonexistent, much to John's chagrin.

Early one Friday morning, John decides to give Veronica a chance to sleep late. He bundles up the still sleeping baby, packs some supplies, and writes a hasty note, intending only to go have breakfast at a favorite diner. Unfortunately, he's up so early that the diner is still closed, and when the taxi takes him to another one, that one's closed too. John had picked up a pile of unopened mail on his way out of the apartment, and as he sits in the back of the taxi, he discovers that their passports have arrived. It's a terribly cold day in New York, and he suddenly directs the driver to the airport and buys a last minute ticket to Barbados, a warm place that he and Veronica loved to visit before the baby was born.

He intends to stay only until Saturday, but complications prevent his returning then. He also tries several times to call Veronica, leaving a message for her on their phone. However he lies and says that he has taken the baby to his mother's house in Irvington. 'It was plausible. Months ago, when Veronica was recovering, he'd taken the baby there on several Saturdays just for the day. It was right up the Hudson, less than an hour away.' He adds that they will be spending the night, and she shouldn't come since she's been sick and really needs to rest.

John feels guilty about the lie and soon begins to have major problems taking care of the baby in Barbados, where buying baby supplies is much more difficult than in Manhattan. He begins to understand why Veronica has been so tired all the time. Meanwhile, Veronica sleeps late and doesn't worry too much about John and Clara being gone. She seems to have mixed feelings about motherhood, but because of the difficult birth, she won't be able to have any more children, so she has been even more devoted to Clara.

The Sunshine When She's Gone is a real page-turner. John and Veronica tell the story in alternate chapters, and there are frequent problems for each of them which result in cliff hangers. However, even though they have real problems, these new parents come across as selfish people, particularly Veronica. Raised in a wealthy family, her expensive tastes have been at least partially responsible for John's leaving a satisfying journalism career for a more highly paid job as a researcher. Also she commits an act of betrayal that was as bad as or worse than his actions, which were at least done lovingly. John, on the other hand, shows incredible carelessness in taking their baby out of the country without telling Veronica. This was shocking to everyone in the book who finds out, and I found it almost unbelievable that a man who professes love for his wife would do such a thing.

The author does such a good job of telling the story and keeping us interested that we can almost believe that sleep deprivation and new parenthood can result in the actions taken by these young people. Then too, I really enjoyed watching John fumble around trying to take care of the baby all by himself. Most new mothers find that their husbands don't really appreciate how hard that 24/7 care of a newborn can be.

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