Ladies and gentlemen… NUMBER FIFTY-TWO!!!
After missing my goal last year, I am very pleased to have finished a few weeks ahead of time this year. (I still have a few reviews to write and will finish with more than fifty-two!)
I liked this book very quickly and realized it was going to be hard to review. Trying to describe the plot is either going to simplify it and not do it justice or will cause people to make a confused face and back away slowly.
It is so good!
Instead of plot, I’m going to talk about characters. And a little bit of plot.
Sunny was born bald. And stayed bald. No eyebrows, no eyelashes, no hair on her arms or legs. She seemed to be just a big head that needed to be protected from the sun. She had a mother who did protect her from the sun and from people in life who would be cruel.
Maxon was born into the wrong family. An Appalachian family, poor and abusive. They couldn’t comprehend his intelligence, his inability to take orders or follow directions and why he doesn’t want to spend time in a run down house where sheep live in rusted out cars and where fists and belts make pleasant conversation.
Maxon and Sunny met when they were children. Sunny’s mother quickly saw that Maxon was different and needed guidance. Perhaps she knew what Asperger’s was or she just saw that he needed an understanding mother figure. She began to teach him social skills – how to react to people’s voices and body language. What phrases to memorize so he could respond to people in an acceptable way. Sunny helps with this, letting him know when he’s doing things right.
As they grow older, Maxon falls in love. It is logical and complete and he waits for Sunny to come to him. He deals in absolutes and when they are both still young he recognizes that she is his mate. His logic also recognizes that she will do other things but eventually will return to him, simply because they are supposed to be together.
It’s mathematical, logical, quantifiable and beautiful.
Years later Maxon takes his assigned place as Sunny’s husband and Sunny decides it’s time to take on the role of Perfect Wife, Perfect Neighbor, and Perfect Mother. A wig appears. False eyelashes. Glued on eyebrows. She has assigned herself this task and applies herself to it just as Maxon applies himself to his job at NASA. He is confused by Sunny’s role, but she continues to train him in what she needs and how he should react. He is in love and happy, but confused at the new formulas that are introduced.
And everything changes when a rock hits a rocket and a car hits a car.
This book works because of how carefully and thoroughly Netzer created Sunny and Maxon. Again, trying to explain the plot feels impossible because it’s both complex logic and pure love. Emotion and logic don’t often mix well, but here it is perfect. Netzer created something amazing and her formulas throughout the book applying human emotion and reactions into math for Maxon to access are brilliant and way above my basic grasp of math.
I wanted everything to work. The story is told with many flashbacks and even though I knew they were married, I still worried and wanted to be sure the pieces all fit. When things began to change in present time, I worried that it was too late to fix misunderstandings and anger. There is so much happening in this book that it could have easily fallen apart. With Sunny on Earth dealing with her own crisis and loss of self and Maxon in space with a crisis of mechanics and possible destruction, I had to stay up way past my bedtime on a work night to find out how it all ends.
I love when a book is so satisfying. Netzer really nailed it. The plot, the characters, the love, the logic, the emotions… It’s beautiful and wonderful and I have no clue how she made it work.