4 out of 4 stars
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Sunnyside Up is not listed as a mystery because readers are not really trying to guess who the murderer is; they
are trying to decide where the borders lie between life and death. Somehow the collisions between flashbacks and flash-forwards and between mortals and ghosts do not hinder the comprehension, and the storyline flows along smoothly amidst the confusion. As you might infer from the open grave on the cover, many of the characters are in various stages of being buried in the cemetery plot next to the Sunnyside Up Funeral Home and Chicken Farm. Rea Nolan Martin has used her amazing talent to craft one of the most bizarre and compelling books I have ever read. If you are someone who doesn't like to be able to predict the outcome when you are reading, this is the book for you.
Trying to write a summary of this novel is difficult. The story mostly takes place in Outskirt, Kentucky. The time period from the early 1900s to 2021 is not in chronological or linear order. The main characters are sisters, Adelaide and Felicity Somers. They grew up in the funeral home and inherited it after their parents died. Their activities involve other family members and various individuals from the community. The circumstances of their lives allow for many philosophical discussions about life, death, and one's existence. There is humor, horror, and honesty. At times, I was as confused as the characters.
I am thankful that the author chose to end many of the chapters with an obituary. These humorous articles helped me to sort out some of the plot details and keep track of the body count. Another of my favorite aspects of this book is the use of poetic prose. This line is just one example of many beautiful passages: "On the horizon, the raspberry sky melts over the creamy orange sun like a bowl of peach melba." I also like the uncanny ability of the author to include the Kentucky hill dialect into the third-person narrative, which made reading a rhetorical delight.
The use of dialect in the narrative called for bypassing grammatical conventions, but it definitely increased the storytelling aspect. While those instances were intentional and forgivable, I was not a fan of the rule-breaking use of random italics. In my experience, they did not add anything positive. Every time I saw the title of the family business in italics, I cringed a little.
I am not normally a fan of paranormal, other-worldly, ghost-filled novels, but this one earns a four out of four stars. The situations and characters, although preposterous, are somehow realistic. I recommend it to readers who have already enjoyed exploring the nether world and to readers who have always thought they wouldn't enjoy such a tale. It combines romance, mystery, comedy, and family bonding with a healthy dose of immortality. If you have a hard time telling your dreams from your memories, you will relate to this book perfectly.
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