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 Journey to Sharonville

Sussex-based author Sharon Zink takes us to a world of her own in her first novel, Welcome to Sharonville, reviewed here by Leigh Kennedy.

Sharonville is a small town in the desert of the south-western United States, populated by a grand mix of citizens such as cooks, car mechanics, university professors, doctors, firemen, bartenders and even a guardian ghost. Every one of them has his or her own history in the interplay of townsfolk, but the life stories focus into critical pinpoints when Toni Sorrentino, now a professor, almost returns to town. After searching for the identity of her father, she has an accident in her pickup truck which puts her into a coma.

Zink has written robust characters in generous dialogues, open to each other and themselves, with comic and tragic touches. Although Toni doesn’t know, we readers soon discover that her father is ‘Uncle’ Franco who raised her from birth after she was abandoned by her mother, the love of his life. His utter devotion to his Antonia and regrets about his past form the greater part of the narrative, but we also meet and understand Toni’s friends, lovers, neighbours and students as she lies in the hospital.

Though she has experienced a successful career so far based on short fiction and poetry, this is Sharon Zink’s first novel, a bit flawed by some unsubtle telling, but with a good heart, fascinating characters and an entertaining journey to Sharonville. The style of writing is highly readable, in spite of an occasional strained image, and the pages fly by with Zink’s exuberant prose.

Although the main thrust of the plot is Franco’s wish to recover his connection to Toni’s mother and reunite the family, while never knowing if Toni will ever wake up again, the threads of the novel are a patterned mesh with the unconscious professor in the middle.

The people, close and distant in her life, coming to terms with their own shortcomings, fears and hopes, are woven into this mesh. We follow the colourful Aunt Happiness of the Chinese restaurant and her troubled relationship with her rebellious daughter, Mia; Ethan, her former lover, mute and sick with self-disappointment; Steve, who, suspected of causing the accident, has his life turned upside-down; Jackie, who was inspired by Toni’s teaching to find strength in herself; and other stories, a hint of Mafia intervention, a ripple from the 11 September terrorist attacks and even a hint of alien abduction.

The conclusion is a satisfying mixture of joy, loss and optimism.

 

Welcome To Sharonville, by Sharon Zink. Published by Unthank Books.

Posted 12:20 Thursday, Sep 11, 2014 In: Literature

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