Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she was treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace.
Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.
From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked.
That night becomes weeks and then months, as an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land.
Achingly beautiful, profound, invigorating and uplifting, Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it…
Hi and welcome to my review of Tasting Sunlight!
I have no idea what kind of review this will turn out to be cos I just finished Tasting Sunlight and I’m utterly speechless, in the very best way.
Tasting Sunlight is… Well, I guess Tasting Sunlight is the book I never realised I needed in my life until I started it and finished it pretty much in one sitting. I didn’t fly through it, I glided through it effortlessly, savouring every sentence along the way.
People who know me know I love to be out in the sunshine, I’m like a lizard sitting on a rock basking in the sun to warm up my cold-blooded body. Reading Tasting Sunlight, I did sit out in the sun, but as much as I was soaking up the rays, I was also soaking up the story, both warming me in equal measure.
Sally is a teenage girl, a so-called problem child, anorexic, self-harming, while she doesn’t experience herself that way, she just isn’t happy with the life that is forced upon her. Running away from the umpteenth institution her parents put her in, she stumbles across forty-something Liss who remembers vividly what it was like to be a girl like Sally, struggling with life and parents and not being allowed to make your own choices, make your own decisions.
As opposed to any and all other adults in Sally’s life, Liss is unassuming. She doesn’t want anything from Sally, she doesn’t want to mould her into something or somebody she’s not. She gives Sally peace and quiet and the space to be her own person, to heal.
I think the author did an amazing job of portraying the ups and downs of being a teenager, of hormones and growing up and finding out what kind of person you want to become and teenage angst, all without making Sally an angsty teenage character. I loved Sally, and I loved Liss as well. Watching their bond grow was absolutely heart-warming.
If… if a machine isn’t working, you take it apart and take out the broken part and put it back together again. And that’s what they kept trying with me. To take me apart and put me back together again. But people aren’t machines. And if there’s something broken inside them, then you sometimes just have to let it grow back together again, and you have to give them time for that. You did that. For me.
I adored the part nature and Liss’s farm play in the story. In the last couple of years, I have taken up gardening and tending to a vegetable patch and I’d completely underestimated how soothing and restorative, both mentally and physically, that is. I loved seeing Sally come to that same conclusion, how she experiences farm life, how it might hurt her back but heal her spirit.
Tasting Sunlight was a very sensory experience for me. I didn’t just read the words, I was simply there in that little German village, feeling the sun, tasting the pears, hearing the clucking of the hens. I read an early review of Tasting Sunlight on Mary’s blog Live and Deadly, in which she described reading Tasting Sunlight as “applying balm to the soul”. And yes, that is exactly what reading this book felt like.
Kudos to translator Rachel Ward, who never ceases to amaze me and who proves through Tasting Sunlight just how talented she is in getting an author’s unique voice across in another language.
Tasting Sunlight is simply magnificent. It is an absolute triumph and a story I know I will return to time and again. As I add this sentence, it’s been a few weeks since I read Tasting Sunlight and I realise it gave me a whopper of a book hangover and I hate that I don’t have the words to express how utterly mesmerising it is. Just read it, even if you think it’s not for you, read it anyway, you won’t regret it. Highly recommended.
Tasting Sunlight is out in digital formats and paperback on 23 June. Preorder directly from Orenda Books here.
Massive thanks to Orenda Books for the eARC. All opinions are my own.