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Nine-year-old Charlie Boone isn't the smartest kid in class, but he does have a unique talent for getting into and out of trouble.

Prospects are bleak for nine-year-old Charlie Boone. His father is in prison and his mother abandoned the family (got sucked into a hurricane, he is told), leaving Charlie and his bedwetting little brother, Jute, to muddle through childhood in the care of their Memaw and Pawpaw, as well as under the dubious influence of his fugitive Uncle Dan. His teacher sums up Charlie’s chances, “You Boone Children are destined for prison. There’s no accounting why, and there’s nothing to be done to save you.”

Set in 1962 in swampy Red Church, Louisiana, “My Only Sunshine” by Lou Dischler is a playful satire about a problem child making the best of bad situations. Unburdened by high, or even middling expectations, Charlie views the world with a combination of bemused honesty and candid innocence, and while hardly a deep thinker, he is nevertheless inquisitive, resilient, and remarkably perceptive.

Criminality is baked into the Boone DNA. Uncle Dan bungles a bank robbery. Memaw shoots a naked man. With role models like these, its no surprise that Charlie frequently gets into trouble. He and Jute dig a hole in the backyard, and it expands into an all-consuming bayou sinkhole. He fires a bullet by whacking it with a hammer and blasts a hole in Pawpaw’s car. During an air raid drill, he is turned away from the fallout shelter and takes refuge in the mayor’s office, where he helps himself to hizzoner’s cigars and whiskey, and unwisely shares his sanctuary with two naked girls.

This last infraction lands him in reform school.  Like always, though, Charlie adapts smoothly. “I didn’t mind going because my daddy had gone there when he was twelve and Uncle Dan had gone there when he was thirteen. The Boones were famous at that school,” and “I began to see the advantages of juvenile delinquency.”

Dischler lets Charlie’s story flow in an easy, meandering first person that never misses a beat. Conversely, he writes Uncle Dan and his girlfriend Lona’s criminal misadventures from their points of view, in third person. This technique creates some disorienting transitions, especially in early chapters, when readers immersed in Charlie’s mindset must shift mental gears to enter the parallel narratives.

Still, setting aside literary niceties, there are echoes of Twain and Thurber in Dischler’s humor, which is folksy, whimsical, and sometimes incisive, but never bitter. “My Only Sunshine” mixes aw-shucks, lowbrow comedy with sneaky intelligence.

Reviewed by

Gregg Sapp is author of the “Holidazed” satires. To date, six titles have been released: “Halloween from the Other Side,” “The Christmas Donut Revolution,” “Upside Down Independence Day,” “Murder by Valentine Candy," "Thanksgiving Thanksgotten Thanksgone," and the latest, "New Year's Eve, 1999."

About the author

Lou Dischler went from Haight-Ashbury of the sixties to a position as senior scientist for an international research firm, then left that behind in 2000. He's presently working on ten novels and a method of epigenetic age reversal that has reversed his own age by twenty years. view profile

Published on March 19, 2021

50000 words

Genre: Magical Realism

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