When Gillian Marchenko asked me to review her memoir, Sun Shine Down, I hesitated. Gillian, you see, is my friend. I like her. I think she’s an awesome person and I have come to an age in which I realize that just because someone is your friend and you like them does not mean that you are going to like the book that they write. Furthermore, for all my faults, I’m not a liar: I’m going to tell you what I really think of something. Compounded to that is the fact that book reviewing isn’t exactly my forte: I’m an adept reader who then fumbles for words to articulate what was read, left more often than not with, “uhhhhh….. I liked it!” – or not.
So I was nervous about that too. I wanted to do right with my friend.
Gillian made it easy to commit by saying that while she hoped I’d like her book, even if my review was negative, it would still be helpful, because it’s still putting the word out. Which is very true! Okay! So, I signed on up.
The book itself is very short, around 100 pages. It’s a snippet in the period of time in which her daughter, Polina was born in the Ukraine, and in which she struggled to come to terms with the Down syndrome diagnosis.
A little bit of background: Gillian was a Christian missionary in the Ukraine, married to a Ukrainian minister when her third daughter was born. She herself is originally from the United States. Her daughter was a surprise – not a surprise in the “whoops, we weren’t planning on having a baby!” way, but a surprise in that they were not expecting her to have Down syndrome.
So this story is about that short period of time surrounding her daughter’s birth.
Sun Shine Down is exceptionally well written.
Gillian crafts elegant sentences, weaves words together in seamless harmonies, creating some gorgeous melodies. She is very good.
Very, very good. I know that Gillian’s blog is popular, but I think that this book puts her blog to shame – I really feel that she is a born writer. She excels at the longer stories, the places like her book in which she has the time and space to really let her words come together. Because boy, was this ever a splendid bit of writing!
This book is an excellent read and as it’s not long, it’s a chew and a pull that you can savor your way through over a weekend.
I really enjoyed reading what she had to say. But – and did you know there would be a “but” here?! – well, yeah, BUT – but… but! But I felt that she’s just scratching the surface in this memoir. After reading through a great many pages dealing with grief and a grappling of the meaning and presence of the extra chromosome in their lives, there were just a few pages in which her acceptance of her daughter is chronicled.
Now, since I know Gillian, I know she really is a-okay with Down syndrome. But I’m not sure I’d really feel that way if I didn’t know her and if I was just reading this book out of the blue. You know?
I also wanted to know more about many, many things: her life in the Ukraine, her husband (- and how did he become a minister? how widespread is Christianity in the Ukraine? What are the attitudes surrounding Christianity in the Ukraine?), her family – her background as a Christian, really. Since I also suffer from depression, I was also curious about how her depression has changed since Polly was born (- has it?) and how exactly the Down syndrome diagnosis affected it. I wanted to know a lot more about the dynamics of her depression.
I ended up thinking that this book is off to a great start: it makes me ask questions, it makes me want to learn more about her life and herself. It’s like a great introduction to a story that will hopefully told in greater depth sometime soon.
But! (here we go, another “but”!) – don’t take my word for it – find out for yourself! Read it! One copy of her book will be given away this time next week to someone commenting here. So, leave a comment! And if you don’t feel like waiting a week, just go ahead and buy it –
It’s only $9.99 on Kindle and $13 via paperback.
And don’t forget to leave a comment here to enter the giveaway for your own copy!
You have to scroll down to reach the comments – it’s the box where it says, “do you have your coffee? let’s talk”. Just jot a comment there to enter the giveaway – or for you shyer types out there who might want to enter but are stymied by the “what do I say?” block when you come to the comment box – how about a question: what famous song by John Denver involves sunshine?
Sorry the comments are so far down there – I can’t figure out how to bring it up/change the order of stuff