Epicurious Best Foodie Reads Selection
Library Reads Pick
“A clever beach bag must-have” (People) from Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—“a smart, fun read about trying to live an authentic life in the age of social media overload” (PopSugar).
Sunshine Mackenzie has it all...until her secrets come to light. Sunshine is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. Sunshine Mackenzie has it all...until she gets hacked.
When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses her husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.
“A delightfully addictive page-turner” (WMagazine.com) that takes place in a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is “wickedly funny and gorgeously entertaining...there is no chance you won’t consume this golden summer read in one sitting” (Redbook.com).
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Hello, Sunshine 1
You should probably know two things up front. And the first is this: On my thirty-fifth birthday—the day I lost my career and my husband and my home in one uncompromising swoop—I woke up to one of my favorite songs playing on the radio alarm clock. I woke up to “Moonlight Mile” playing on the radio (where it is almost never played) and actually thought, as you only would think if you’re a total fool (or, perhaps, if you were about to lose your career and your husband and your home in one uncompromising swoop): The world, my world, is good.
I stayed in bed, in my fresh Frette sheets (a birthday present to myself), the sunlight drifting through the windows, the air chilly and light. And I listened to the entire song, crooning assuredly through my apartment.
Are you familiar with the song “Moonlight Mile”? It’s a Rolling Stones song—not nearly as popular as their ubiquitous “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or as wedding-song-sticky as “Wild Horses.” “Moonlight Mile” is just the most honest rock song ever recorded. I don’t offer that as my personal opinion. I share that as fact: an inarguable fact, which you should twist into your brain and heart so that when someone argues the virtues of a different song as the epitome of greatness (prepare for the Beatles, who naturally arise as a challenge to the Stones), you can smile and quietly think, I know better. It’s nice to know better. It’s nice to know that when you hear the closing guitar riff of “Moonlight Mile,” what you’re actually hearing is a piece of music so soft and difficult, so dangerous and quiet, so full of life and death and love, that just below its surface, the song is telling you a secret—a secret that I was just starting to understand—about everything that matters in this world, everything that grounds us and eventually leaves us, all at once.
The tricky part is that the song was the product of an all night jam session between Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. It was Taylor who had taken a short guitar piece recorded by Keith Richards and reworked it for the session. And it was Taylor’s idea to add a string arrangement to the final song. The legend goes that Taylor, for good reason, was promised a songwriting credit. But “Moonlight Mile” was officially credited to Jagger/Richards. Keith Richards would later deny Taylor’s involvement at all, and say that Mick Jagger delivered the song to the band all on his own.
Normally, if you were to ask me about this, I’d say: Who cares? The credit didn’t matter, what mattered was the song. Taylor kept playing with the band, so he’d let it go.
Except on the morning in question—the morning of my thirty-fifth birthday, the morning of my crisp Frette sheets, of rightness in the world—the injustice of Mick Taylor’s omission was at the forefront of my mind, and I looked him up on my phone.
Considering what was about to happen to my world, it was odd that this was the moment I focused on Taylor. Call it foreshadowing, call it intuition. For the first time, I found myself sympathizing with him. Even though, in my particular story, I’m not the guy you root for. I’m not Mick Taylor. I’m not even Mick Jagger.
I’m Keith Richards, getting credit and telling lies from outside the room.
I heard a groan next to me. “Didn’t you make a rule about phones in bed?”
I turned to see my husband, waking up, yawning for effect. Danny Walker: Iowa raised, strong chin, fearless. His eyes were still closed, his long eyelashes (thick lashes, like someone had tinted them, slathered them with rich mascara) clasped tightly together.
“You can’t even see my phone,” I said.
“I don’t have to, I can feel it,” he said.
He opened his eyes, stunning green eyes, those lashes surrounding them like a web. I resented those lashes, those eyes. Danny was more naturally beautiful than any woman would ever figure out how to be. Especially his wife. And while some women might have been okay with that, proud even, or so blissfully in love they didn’t keep score, I was not one of those women. I kept score. I hadn’t always, but somewhere along the way I started to. Which maybe was part of the problem. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“It’s your rule,” he said, pointing at the phone. “Shut it off.”
“That’s the first thing you want to say to me today?” I said.
“Happy birthday.” He smiled, his great smile. “Shut it off.”
He moved his hand down my stomach, his touch ice cold. Our apartment was an old converted loft in Tribeca (recently photographed for Architectural Digest), a few blocks off the Hudson River, and freezing in the morning. No matter the season, no matter June’s gnarly heat. It was freezing. It was also oddly loud, the noises from the highway and the river comingling to remind you there was nowhere else in the world in quite the same identity crisis. It was by far the nicest place we’d lived together—a large step up from the first place we’d shared at the University of Oregon. A garden apartment, the landlord had called it. He was right in that you could see the garden from the basement windows that looked up toward it.
There were three apartments after that, but none of them had the loft’s corner windows—with views of the Hudson River and Battery Park—making everything in New York look beautiful.
I tossed my phone to the side of the bed, tossed Mick Taylor to the side.
“Good. Let’s start again, then. Happy birthday, baby,” he said. And, for a second, I wondered if he’d been thinking the same thing about our real estate past, our shared history.
He started to kiss me, and I stopped thinking. All these years in, I could still get lost in it. Lost in Danny. How many people, fourteen years in, could say that? And, yes, I’m glossing over the other part—the part where that took a hit. But I had vowed to change all that. And, at this particular moment, I was dedicated to changing all that. Very dedicated.
Danny moved on top of me, his hands working their way down my thighs, when I heard it. My phone beeped from the side of the bed, a bright and shiny email notification coming across its screen.
I flinched, instinctively wanting to grab it. It could have been important. A hundred and fifty people worked on my show; it usually was.
Danny peered at the phone out of the corner of his eye. “How is that putting your phone away?”
“I’ll be really quick,” I said. “Promise.”
He forced a smile, moving away. “No, you won’t,” he said.
I flipped to my inbox screen, and there was the email.
The subject line was simple enough.
I didn’t recognize the sender’s email address. So I almost didn’t open it. I like to tell myself that if I hadn’t, I could have stopped everything that came next.
Door one: Sunshine Mackenzie ignores the email, has birthday sex with her husband, and life goes on as usual. Door two: Sunshine pushes her husband aside and opens an email from someone called Aintnosunshine, and life as she knows it ends.
Let’s guess which door I took.
Do you know who this is? Here’s a hint: I’m about to ruin you.
I laughed, a little loudly. After all, it was such a ridiculous email. So incredibly over-the-top, like the spam you get from Nigeria asking you to send your bank account information.
“What’s so funny?” Danny said.
I shook my head. “Nothing. Just a silly email.”
“They usually are.”
This was a point of friction between us. Whereas my entire career existed online, Danny was an architect and sometimes didn’t even check his email more than a couple times a day. He’d learned how to contain it, disregarding ridiculous emails from difficult clients, who were obsessed with their Gramercy Park brownstones, their Bowery rooftops. He’d learned how to contain it, so he could get the work done for them. It was a skill that his wife, apparently, had yet to learn.
I turned back to my phone.
“All right. You’ve chosen,” he said.
Then he pulled the blankets back, got out of bed.
“No!” I said. And I reached to pull him back down. “Danny! Please come back. That’s a birthday order.”
He laughed. “Nope, too late.”
Then the next email came in.
Do you think I was kidding? I’m not the kidding type.
Some would even say humorless: www.twitter.com/sunshinecooks
This stopped me cold. Why did he choose the word humorless? (At that moment in time, knowing nothing, I thought the hacker was a he.) It was a specific word. It was also a word I used often.
So I clicked on the link.
And there was my verified Twitter account staring back at me.
There was my profile complete with a photograph of me in my studio kitchen—wearing a peasant blouse and strategically distressed jeans, my blond hair swept off my face in a loose bun.
Cooking for a New Generation. Host of #alittlesunshine. NY Times bestselling Author: #afarmersdaughter, #farmtothenewyorktable & (coming soon!) #sunkissed
And a new tweet to my 2.7 million followers.
Apparently from me.
I’m a fraud. #aintnosunshine
I must have let out a gasp, because Danny turned. “What?”
“I think I was hacked,” I said.
“What are you talking about?”
He walked back over to the bed to see for himself. I quickly pulled the phone away. Even in the chaos, I still had an instinct to control it, keep it close. And, of course, to keep it away from him.
“You know what? It’s nothing.”
“Sunny . . .”
“Danny, I’m forwarding it to Ryan now. He’ll deal with it. It’s his job.”
Danny looked unconvinced. Fourteen years. He knew things. “Are you sure?”
I forced a smile and repeated that all was well. So he nodded, walked away.
First, though, he leaned down to kiss me. A sweet kiss. A birthday kiss. Not the sex that we’d been close to, but something. Something lovely.
Which was when the phone’s bright light shined again, another tweet coming in.
Let me stop there, though.
Before we got the next tweet, the next hack, before we got to what it said. The thing that led to the demise of my career, my home, my marriage.
You remember how I told you that there were two things you should know right up front?
The first was how it happened. On the morning of my thirty-fifth birthday, “Moonlight Mile” welcomed me to my day, my husband still loved me, and then the email came in. The start of something I couldn’t stop.
The second thing you should know? I was not (certainly at that moment in time) a good person. Some would even say I was a bad person. And everything this emailer—the hacker, the imploder of my perfect life—had to say about me was the truth.
See how I told you how it happened first? Garnering sympathy. Take that as proof of the second.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Hello, Sunshine includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Laura Dave. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Sunshine Mackenzie is a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.
And then she gets hacked.
When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses her husband, her YouTube show, her fans, and her dream apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does in the ashes of her own destruction may just save her life.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In chapter 1, Sunshine confides in the reader that she keeps score on the ways Danny’s beauty compared to hers. In what ways are we all tempted to “keep score” of the goings on around us?
2. Sunshine tells the reader that they need to know two things, the second being that she’s a “bad person.” Why do you think she feels that way? Do you think Sunshine is a bad person, or a person who’s behaved badly? Did your opinion change as you continued reading?
3. Ryan prefers the term “the story” over the words “lie” or “truth.” How do you think the human impulse toward storytelling allows us to soften our version of events?
4. In chapter 4, Sunshine confesses that sometimes not performing for Danny feels “like the hardest performance of all.” Why do you think authenticity, or the gaze of a loving observer, sometimes feels harder than artifice?
5. Sunshine posits in chapter 6 that the one thing women don’t want to forgive is another adulterous woman. Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Do you think female adulterers suffer more judgment than male adulterers?
6. Sunshine describes Montauk as a “show that didn’t look like one, which was a show all in itself.” When you watch TV, which worlds seem the most authentic to you? Think about the Food Network or daytime talk shows—“reality” TV—and divulge which ones tap into your expectations of authenticity.
7. Chapter 20 opens with Sunshine suggesting that readers may expect this to be a story about a woman realizing that her childhood home is where she always belonged. Were you expecting the narrative to turn out that way? Were you expecting to be called out on that assumption by the narrator? What did you think of that challenge to your own narrative expectations?
8. Eventually, Sunshine realizes that she had already chosen her dream over her marriage. Have you ever looked back at a moment and realized something about your own motivations that you hadn’t at the time? Could you relate more to Sunshine in the present or past??
9. Sunshine and Rain have a fraught relationship; why do you think the author chose to make them contentious instead of using a “loving long-lost sister” trope?
10. Sunshine realizes on page  that her curated photos with Danny might have sent the message to him that “the way it actually was hadn’t been enough.” Has there ever been a time when you’ve sent misleading messages to friends or family, using social media or some other means?
11. Sunshine is tempted—even prepared—to lie to Chef Z about what happened with Amber and the peaches, but she doesn’t. Do you agree with her sentiment that when you’re out of practice, lying can be “almost as hard as telling the truth?”
12. Ethan brings a lot of clarity to Sunshine’s life, especially his thoughts on the word “curate.” Were you rooting for them to connect romantically? Or were you hoping Danny would forgive Sunshine and welcome her home?
13. Sunshine comes to realize that she and her father—and likely her sister—all had their rules about living that allowed them to hide from their insecurities. In what other ways do people try to run or hide from the fear that they’re not good enough? Do you think everyone fears the same inadequacies?
14. Where you pleased with the novel’s resolution? Did it align with your expectations or hopes for Sunshine when you started reading?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club
1. Sunshine’s worst day opens with her hearing her favorite song on the radio: “Moonlight Mile” by the Rolling Stones. Listen to “Moonlight Mile” and then share your own favorite songs, the ones that make you feel the most alive and yourself.
2. There are plenty of recipes to choose from while planning your book club, but the famous Tomato Pie sounds like the simplest and best. Try hosting a tomato pie competition, in which a couple of members of your book club try their hand at a recipe.
3. In chapter 9, Sunshine says she prefers bourbon with just a little ice to the mint julep she and Ryan dubbed “the dreamers drink.” Serve both and discuss which you each prefer.
4. Sunshine has a major turning point with Chef Z when she’s able to be honest that the fennel doesn’t taste good. Fennel is a very distinct vegetable—try some and discuss whether it’s to your individual tastes or not.
5. If you have social media, take turns explaining the curation of one of your posts. Did you pose it? How did you caption it? What message were you trying to send? How did it align with your real, lived experience?
A Conversation with Laura Dave
When Ryan and Sunshine first meet, he tells her that “what people think is all that matters.” Is there any way in which you agree with him? Or do you think Ryan’s a villain of sorts?
Ryan is a producer and, in terms of his job, he isn’t entirely wrong. He’s in the business of selling a person’s image and he has been quite integral in Sunny’s success because he was able to put forth a compelling image of who she was.
On page , you write “. . . that was the key to lying, wasn’t it? Believing it yourself?” Do you think that’s true?
I’m amazed by people who lie easily—even when the people around them know they are lying. Do they believe their lies? To a degree they must. Or, perhaps, they’ve also just gotten to a place where they don’t care about the difference between lying and the truth—they just care about getting what they need out of a given situation.
One page , Ryan opines that everyone is a fraud, and certainly everyone with a public profile. Do you think that’s true? How does society encourage these frauds? Do you have a favorite fraud?
In today’s world, telling the truth isn’t rewarded the way it should be. The story is rewarded. With social media, you are always selling a story about who you are. There is a cost to these small lies, to the need to present yourself in a certain light in order to stay in the public eye. Maybe the cost has always been there, though it feels heightened because of the pervasiveness of broadcasting your life in real time.
Do you think pretending is different from lying? Or are they really the same concept? If they differ, how so?
That’s really the question at the center of the novel. It is a fine line many people walk in order to live a public life, but it’s a tricky line.
You write lovingly about the seaside town of Montauk on Long Island. What about it spoke to you strongly enough to place Sunshine’s origin story there?
I love towns on the end of the world, especially beach towns. You can’t be anonymous in the same way, and you can’t pretend in the same way, which felt like a perfect backdrop to tell the story of someone like Sunny, who is running from herself.
Sammy has her own priorities that often compete with the priorities of the adults in charge of her. Was there a real-life inspiration for Sammy? If not, what inspired you to come up with such a fully realized young person?
Thank you—happy you felt that way about her. In writing about Sammy, I had a clear idea of someone that Sunny was trying to save. I think the nice turn there for Sunny, and hopefully for the readers, is Sunny and Sammy end up saving each other.
During Sunshine’s big fight with Rain, she can’t stop herself from saying something she knows crosses the line. Why do you think that moment is so tempting to her? How was it to write that scene, to allow your characters to follow their worst impulses?
It was a tough scene because it was a turning point for them. Siblings love each other and often hurt each other because they know each other so well. In some ways, Sunshine and Rain needed that moment to remember they were siblings. To say the things they’ve been holding back. They needed that fight to find the other side of it.
What do you think the perfect meal is? Is it achievable, or always out of reach, like Ryan and the producers want the audience to think? What constitutes the perfect meal to you?
A farm-fresh meal, cooked for family and friends—everyone enjoying a little wine, a few laughs—is pretty wonderful. I love to serve the strawberry sofrito pizza, which Chef Z makes in the novel. It’s based on a great pizza from a restaurant in Napa Valley. You’ll want to have friends over to share it, or you’ll end up gobbling down the entire thing yourself. Which, of course, is it’s own form of wonderful.
Sunshine realizes she’s mistaken about running away from your former selves. Do you think it’s even possible to leave a former self behind? Or do you think people carry those identities along with them?
I think it is very common to want to reinvent yourself, to push aside the versions of yourself you wish had made different decisions. Though we are who we are—and staying familiar with the different people you have been is always the way to move forward, to avoid the same mistakes. To become the happiest version of yourself.
Hello, Sunshine is your fifth novel. How was writing it distinct from writing the others? Did you find it posed its own unique challenges? What did you learn from writing this book?
Sunshine Mackenzie is what made it different. She is tough and pretty hard to take if you’re looking at her foibles on paper. I knew that going in, though it was a different thing to actually put Sunshine in the spotlight! Still, I worked to make her relatable. After all, no one is all good or bad. And while in so many ways, she is my opposite, finding compassion for her was a great and fun challenge.
What are you working on next?
I’m writing my new novel, which is a lot of fun. Without spilling too many of the beans, I will say it’s about someone that reconnects with a crush from when they were young in a surprising way.