Jamie Lithgow and Stephen Taylor were best friends growing up. Thick as thieves, they shared a boyhood connection that seemed unbreakable. But then Stephen moved with his parents to California and they drifted apart. Yet years later, Jamie and Stephen stumble across one another and it’s as if nothing has changed. And yet it has, because aside from growing up, both Stephen and Jamie have dealt with their own hardships and challenges. Despite their differences, their friendship doesn’t seem to miss a beat.
When Jamie invites Stephen to become his roommate, both men quickly realize there may be more between them than simply friendship. But in order to fully explore their relationship, Stephen must learn to stop underestimating Jamie and finally accept his truth value as a partner. Their path won’t be an easy one, but together they’re strong enough to weather any storm.
Sunshine and Shadows is a sweet, if somewhat limited exploration of the relationship challenges between two men with vastly different outlooks on the world. Jamie, who uses a wheelchair after an accident, is sunny and chipper and generally sees the world and its challenges as something to be relished and enjoyed. He hasn’t always been this way and acknowledges there were plenty of dark times following his accident, but he refuses to dwell on the past. Stephen, on the other hand, seems consumed by past abuse and failed relationships. These have left him doubting his worth and, while he’s not completely pessimistic, he’s definitely looking at things more bleakly than Jamie. This contrast did provide a nice dynamic to their relationship as each had to really think about why they see the world as they do.
Unfortunately, this same aspect gives the book something of a one note theme. It seems as though we spend the entirety of Sunshine and Shadows either watching people underestimate Jamie’s abilities or apologizing for underestimating his abilities. While I appreciated that Jamie was portrayed as capable in every way, just as he should have been, the story didn’t grow much beyond this. We see Jamie and Stephen enter into a relationship, but I never felt like there was any particularly strong passion between them. Instead, it felt as if their romance was expected as a matter of course and, as a result, read as rather rote and flat. I wanted to like them as a couple, but frankly they never seemed like more than good friends with the benefit of sex on the side.
Sunshine and Shadows was a decent enough book that looked at how often people with disabilities are minimized in our society. That aspect of the story was well done and I appreciate that Jamie was proud and independent and sure as hell didn’t need anyone feeling sorry for him. But the book failed to develop much beyond this. I didn’t find the relationship between him and Stephen overly believable and, while they aren’t a terrible couple, I just didn’t find them to be particularly realistic. But I think if you’re looking for something with a tad bit of angst ,but an ultimately positive outlook on the world, Sunshine and Shadows will probably be a nice enough fit.