Redefining the Beach Read
When Caryn Karmatz Rudy heads for the beach, she eschews the kind of lightweight read that's typically thought of as a "beach book." Caryn thinks beach books should be the opposite of the plot-driven page-turner we've come to see on a regular basis on publishers' summer lists.
"To me a beach read is something that's got a lot of heft to it," says Rudy. "What is a summer read? It's something meaty, because you have time to absorb a book." What better for those long hours of leisure than a book you can really dig into?
After seventeen years as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction for Warner Books/Grand Central Publishing, Caryn Karmatz Rudy moved over to the agenting side, joining DeFiore and Company in the fall of 2010. In her capacity first as an editor and now as a literary agent, Caryn knows how to recognize meaty fiction. And it was one of her Warner authors, Joshilyn Jackson (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints), who led her to her latest find, Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer, published on July 17th by St. Martin's Press.
"I came to the book through Joshilyn Jackson," says Rudy. "She and Lydia went to grad school together and were each other's best supporters and harshest critics." When Rudy was editing Jackson's books, the author would frequently refer to editorial comments from her friend until Caryn finally exclaimed: "I want to meet this Lydia!"
At first Rudy did not even know that Lydia, too, was writing a novel, but finally she was given to read a manuscript that had been ten years in the making. "I read it and absolutely loved it, but thought it's so quirky and odd I don't know if it's mainstream enough."
What makes "Shine, Shine, Shine" "quirky" is both its subject matter and its structure. The story revolves around Sunny, who's been bald since birth, her astronaut husband Maxon, a Nobel-prize-winning genius who can barely hold a conversation, their brilliant autistic son Bubber, and Sunny's mother, who's in hospital dying. "She's fine," Sunny tells a friend. "But I thought she was on life support," the friend replies. "Yes, and it's working," replies Sunny.
As for the structure, the book has the kind of chopped up timeline that seems to be becoming something of a literary sub-genre, having perhaps been launched most prominently with "The Time Traveler's Wife." As Rudy says, this style is " less jarring to readers now. Ten years ago a book like this would have been deemed really experimental. Now readers are more used to it." As Janet Maslin says in her review in The New York Times: "Had Ms. Netzer approached her material in a more linear fashion, she would have run into credibility problems. But . . . "Shine Shine Shine" skips through time in nicely unpredictable fashion."
The book is being well received so far. Rudy says it "had a really healthy first week." Ebook number are "fantastic" and a Sunday Times review is expected next week. The author is doing readings on the west coast and local (Virginia) appearances as well as regular guest blogging and tweeting. A "People Pick" in People magazine "spurred a lot of interest." This is going to be, according to the author's agent, "a big word of mouth book because it's unusual."
Still have room in that bag? Throw in a new beach read to engage your brain!