Tasting Sunlight

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A quiet masterpiece, (in spirit somewhat reminiscent of Penny Haw’s brilliant #TheWildernessBetweenUs), set in a rural village deep in the vinelands of Germany, this is a story to be savored.

As luminous as the first glimpse of a sudden and glorious sunrise, the slowly developing magic of this dazzling work draws you completely into a world that is impossible to leave untouched, and not more than a little bit awed.

Liss, – tall, slim, in her late forties – is a calm and outwardly stoic woman, unhurried and singlehandedly running a large and somewhat dilapidated farm, capably managing all the equipment and production from the weedy but viable pear and apple orchards, as well as the massively sprawling vineyard. Liss’s past, as the reader is slowly led to discover, is not as it seems – seeped in secrets, long-buried but still caustic, as terrible as the emptiness and emotional scars they have left smoldering behind.

“And I know what it’s like when that certainly, of being special, falls to pieces, a bit at a time, like a tree that’s been planted in the wrong soil and forced, with stakes and ties, to grow away from the sun”.

Sally is a seventeen-year-old runaway – escaping from a clinic where she is being treated for self-harming and anorexia, she seethes with the rage of her raw and misunderstood youth.

“In the end it didn’t matter where she went. It wasn’t about getting anywhere. It was about getting away from everything.“

When Sally’s foraging in the “crappy countryside” bordering “the pukeworthy outskirts” of the life she is escaping from puts her directly in the path of Liss, at work on a late autumn day in one of her many fields – something unexpected, not immediately recognized for the cataclysmic change it will eventually yield to both women and their lives, is suddenly set in slowly streaming motion.

A primal bond, in some ways archetypical; a recognition; a homecoming, a soul-affirming acceptance – none can completely capture the “raw, powerful, brittle beauty” unleashed and aligned as the two women are compelled to a rhythm and an inevitability which may or may not be cathartic.

One of my top reads of 2022, I absolutely loved this book – the beauty of the writing, the complexity of the characters, the slow-glow of their dance together, amidst the heartrendingly authentic voice of trauma and pain, solace and succor, woven so deeply into the fabric of a story that breaks your heart, and fills it too.

A great big thank you to the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.

***Note: For readers who are sensitive to violence against animals (as is this reader), a scene of three or so pages of length in the chapter entitled “Sept 16” involving a pig slaughter is easily recognized and can be skipped (as did this reader).


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