The Sunlit Night is one of the weirder love stories I've read. For starters, it's set at “the top of the world,” on an island near the Arctic Circle where, in the summer, the sun never sets. Frances travels there to be part of an artists' colony that turns out to be one guy with a bunch of yellow paint. Yasha makes his way from Brooklyn by way of Russia, on a quest to honor his father and make sense of his mother's abandonment. In the Far North they find a wacky cast of characters who make their stay interesting, to say the least.
Frances and Yasha each have their share of family drama to deal with. Frances's sister has announced she's getting married, and their parents are so opposed to the man she's chosen, they're throwing up every roadblock they can think of to keep the wedding from happening. Yasha's mother claimed she would follow her husband and son to the US from Russia, but never showed up, making vague excuses over the phone until finally cutting off contact altogether. Frances and Yasha are alike in feeling as if they're the sensible islands in the middle of their individual family whirlpools.
While I loved Dinerstein's offbeat humor (Frances's frequent Skype conversations with her parents are exercises in the absurd), her choppy, declarative writing style kept me at a distance. She doesn't provide any subtext that a reader can parse for clues. What you see on the page is what you get. Even though I liked Frances and Yasha, I don't know that I quite made it to any higher plain of meaning the novel intended me to reach.
Still, if you enjoy quirky love stories set in exotic destinations populated with colorful locals, you'll likely find Frances and Yasha a charming pair.
With regards to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale June 2.