A Can of Sunshine

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Nancy has gone from NY to NZ and lives a peaceful life with her Kiwi husband, Mike, and their seven-year-old daughter, Chloe – until a holiday escape to Fiji takes an unexpected turn. Over the next decade she will have to deal with both the fall-out and her idiosyncratic mother-in-law, Edith. Against a backdrop of time passing, life serves up light and darkness, tears, joy and illumination when the three generations of women least expect it.

Description

Nancy has gone from NY to NZ and lives a peaceful life with her Kiwi husband, Mike, and their seven-year-old daughter, Chloe – until a holiday escape to Fiji takes an unexpected turn. Over the next decade she will have to deal with both the fall-out and her idiosyncratic mother-in-law, Edith. Against a backdrop of time passing, life serves up light and darkness, tears, joy and illumination when the three generations of women least expect it.

Born in Connecticut to an Italian mother and a Belgian father, author Christine Leunens travelled widely in Europe, Africa and Asia before becoming a Kiwi and settling permanently in New Zealand. Her first novel, Primordial Soup, was published by Dedalus in the UK in 1999 and won praise in The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Publishers’ Weekly – and was put on the essential reading list of contemporary literature by the Government Association of UK Libraries. Her second novel, Caging Skies, was published by Random House New Zealand in 2008, and the French translation was shortlisted for the Prix FNAC and the Prix Médicis. A film adaptation by Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit, made the Black List 2012 and has been structured as a German/ American/ New Zealand co-production with the support of the New Zealand Film Commission. In 2008 she received a Victoria University of Wellington Doctoral Scholarship to write a third novel, A Can of Sunshine, which received a grant from Creative NZ to finalise for publication. Her novels have been translated into French, Spanish, Catalan, Dutch, Italian, Czech, Russian and Korean. She lives with her family in the Manawatu and is working on a fourth novel.

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Author Bio

Editorial Reviews

“A Can of Sunshine’ opens with Nancy, an American, living in New Zealand with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Chloe, with Mike’s mother, Edith, a persistent and not entirely welcome presence. But when an event radically changes Nancy’s life, she must re-examine her relationship with Edith and choose how – and, indeed, whether – to continue it. The story has appeal and intelligence.”

— The Listener

“Former model-turned author Leunens is late to the writing game but has been pretty successful at it – this is the third novel from the American-born, Palmerston North-based writer whose second book, Caging Skies, is being made into a film by Taika Waititi called Jojo Rabbit. A Can of Sunshine is about the fractious relationship between central characters Nancy – also an American living in New Zealand – and her mother-in-law Edith which is pushed to the limit after the death of Nancy’s husband Michael. The pair try to work through their mutual grief for the sake of Nancy and Michael’s daughter Chloe, not always successfully. I’s sometimes hard to gauge a timeline, but this is a compelling read that will resonate with any mother or daughter-in-law who wouldn’t necessarily be friends, if not for their common ground.”

— New Zealand Herald

The New Zealand Herald included A Can of Sunshine among the 25 best books published in English worldwide in 2013, and one of only three written by New Zealanders (the others being by Booker prize-winner Eleanor Catton, and Fiona Kidman).

“Former model turned author, Christine Leunens, is somewhat of an over-achiever – and this girl can write, with a style that is intelligent, observant, and witty. A Can of Sunshine looks at the taut, but ultimately rewarding, relationship between a young mother and her eccentric mother-in-law. For me, this was an unusually rewarding read. Highly recommended.”

— Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations Magazine

“Christine Leunens depicts the complex relationship between the principal female figures in a man’s life and how grieving for this man totally destabilises the relationship between these women. A narrative all in subtlety, in a light-handed, almost imperceptible manner. A Can of Sunshine provokes thought on the passing of time, the directions one chooses in life, and how one will inevitably apprehend death. It troubles and stays with the reader long after closing the book. I’s a read that’s as pleasant as mysterious and leaves one in a blur of sentiments overall, though very precise ones over the disturbing and poignant last scene. A piece of literature that is strange ad indefinable.”

— Adept du Livre – France

Complimentary First Chapter

Excerpt

Language is this high-rise building,’ Edith said. ‘You can see up and down it and from the look of it, moving up and down would be easy, but you’re pretty much stuck at your level depending on your friendship with a person. You can chitchat with most folks, on the top floor. But you can’t just jump through those glass floors to have a deeper level of talk with someone.who didn’t ask you down. You’d land in a bloody mess and embarrass them as they watched you do that to yourself. They’d just want you to clean up and get back on up to your proper level. Good friends usually get halfway down. Husbands can get a bit lower, because of physical intimacy, and ‘cos they tend to forget the secrets you tell them, so they’re safe enough. The only discussions you have way down on the ground floor are usually just with yourself.