Oh God, the Sun Goes: A Novel
- By David Connor
- Melville House
- 240 pp.
- Reviewed by Chris Rutledge
- September 22, 2023
A hollowed-out sky fuels a strange yet rewarding road trip.
The sun has disappeared, leaving a pale hole where it once shined. In Oh God, the Sun Goes, debut novelist David Connor successfully paints a vivid picture of what could be a silly conceit: “Not darkness, different sort of absence…brighter than if the sun were there…Blinding grey absence in the sky.”
People don’t seem concerned. They are “going to work…cutting their nails, doing the laundry.” Perhaps it’s a lack of vitamin D that leads them to be so indifferent. With nothing else to do, our narrator (who isn’t named until the end, and only barely then) takes a road trip to Phoenix. The sun, he has realized from his research, is hidden there. Indeed, he’s even uncovered its exact coordinates, which lead to a rather mundane corner of the city.
As in all good road-trip novels, the narrator meets some meaningful and interesting characters along the way. One is Del Webb, a real-life developer and creator of the Sun City retirement-community empire (over 200 worldwide!). This meeting, however, is no accident. The first Sun City was built in Phoenix and, per the book’s version of Webb, is the one of which he is most proud. The sun, perhaps, has relocated here for its own retirement.
The narrator also comes across a diner whose denizens he befriends. Among these are two lovers, one of whom is more energetic and enthusiastic than the other. Their relationship foreshadows the narrator’s own with the enigmatic M, for whom he’s also searching.
Finally, the narrator comes to meet the wife of the prescient Dr. Higley, a scientist who has studied the sun and predicted its instability. The Higleys, too, live in Sun City. The narrator hopes to learn the sun’s secrets from the scientist; unfortunately, Higley is asleep when he visits.
The novel is an exercise in exploring the power of memory. The waitress at the diner has a son (a homophonic play on “sun”) who has forgotten how to swim. Higley is prevented from sharing what he remembers. And most importantly, at the novel’s beginning, the narrator forgets about the existence of M, his great love. It seems the sun provides critical fuel for our minds as well as our bodies.
The sun also serves as a metaphor for other, greater losses. As mentioned, the narrator has lost his true love. Yet he also, early in life, lost his mother, who, like the sun, simply disappeared one day. You can’t read this book without noting the ongoing sun/son play on words. Perhaps it’s not just our old friend Sol who powers us. We’re also charged up by those we adore and who shine their love on us.
The narrator’s initials, once revealed, represent either coincidence or something more profound. Without the sun, his lover, and his mother to shine their light on him, he is lost to the world.
This speculative novel is meant to be fantastical, and Connor does a wonderful job depicting the narrator’s strange journey, starting with the incredibly powerful opening imagery of the sun’s disappearance. We are carried along on his expedition; in the author’s capable hands, the narrator’s quest becomes our own.
Still, Connor’s stream-of-consciousness style risks coming off as facile, and my initial reading left me with that impression. For example, an underlying conceit (complete with an appendix) about the structure of the brain feels unnecessary. However, after a second reading (the book is short and quick, so please reward yourself with this), I found myself more enamored with what the author is trying to do: explore the nature of memory, loss, and the impermanence of everything we believe to be unchangeable.
Do give Oh God, the Sun Goes a try. If you approach it with an open mind, you’ll find yourself transported. I look forward to reading more of Connor’s work in the future.
Chris Rutledge is a husband, father, writer, nonprofit professional, and community member living in Silver Spring, MD. Besides the Independent, his work has appeared in Kirkus Reviews, American Book Review, and countless intemperate Facebook posts, which will surely get him into trouble one day.