A Little Ray of Sunshine - Lani Diane Rich This novel touched me deeply, plucked the strings that still reverberate long after I finished the last page. I read it and thought about my life and my relationships with the people I love.
We all make mistakes, hurt others willingly or unwillingly. And sometimes, others hurt us. To live our lives to the full despite the damage to our hearts and souls, we all need forgiveness: to grant it and to receive it. Forgiveness, the absolution of guilt, makes our lives worth living. This story is about one woman’s quest to find forgiveness: for those who hurt her as well as for herself.
Emmy is a nomad. She lives in her trailer, works temporary jobs, and moves from place to place along the countless American roads whenever the mood strikes her. She has been doing it for six years, ever since she left home and the man she loved. Now, her mother is getting married, and Emmy is invited to the wedding. And she knows that going there will reopen the wounds that have never healed properly. The hungry, toothy maws of the old hurts gnaw at her heart again. And it bleeds again.
To go or not to go? Drowning in self-doubts, convinced of her utter worthlessness, and afraid to face the people she loved and abandoned, Emmy is lost in her lonely, joyless universe. Until a self-proclaimed angel Jess kidnaps Emmy and drives her to the town of her youth, towards forgiveness. If only Emmy finds enough courage to forgive – herself as well as the others, all would be well. Maybe…
Guilt eats at Emmy, as she navigates her bumpy relationships with her mother, her former fiancé, and her current angel. Guilt sours her every thought and drives her every action, as Emmy tries to build a new beginning on the ruins of her former life. Reestablishing severed connections is a hard job, fraught with a lot of tears and bouts of torturous self-searching. It is doable, but only if every participant is willing. Fortunately for Emmy, she has an angel on her side. How seldom we find such a blessing in real life!
Several fascinating details add verisimilitude to this poignant and emotional tale. One of them is Emmy’s obsession with her name: Emmy James. Emmy hates that name. She calls herself EJ. And to forgive her mother, who had neglected her all her life, Emmy needs her mother to call her EJ, to comply with Emmy’s self-identification. And the mother resists this demand until the very end of the novel. Such petty defiance on both their sides, with so much at stake, says volumes about both troubled women and their bitter-sweet kinship.
I have to admit, in this, if in nothing else, I side with the mother. I dislike this custom to use initials in place of a given name. Initials make one seem dry and formal, an entry in a document, whereas a name reflects one’s personality, colors, and quirks. A name belongs to a unique individual. Initials imply mass production, at least for me. Besides, Emmy sounds so much better than EJ.
Another peculiarity of this novel is its plentitude of bar jokes: bad, rude, and funny. Both Emmy and her former fiancé seem to communicate through these jokes. They are a symbol of their love, a token of their mutual understanding. Without the jokes, their union would be incomplete.
Invariably, their jokes made me laugh too, and so often my laughter mingled with tears. I cried and I smiled, occasionally at the same time. And although the tears often blurred my vision, I couldn’t stop reading. I think it is called catharsis.
I loved this novel.