Sometimes, the desire to read a certain book comes out of nowhere and will not go away. I can’t explain it, but I see a title and I just want to read it. With The Heat of the Sun, I had that experience. I knew eff all about the book, the author, nothing. But I wanted to read it. But then I discovered that the high concept for this novel was “Madam Butterfly’s son grows up” and I was very intrigued.
Narrated to us by Woodley Sharpless, recently orphaned and attending Blaze Academy boarding school, it’s the story of Ben “Trouble” Pinkerton. Trouble’s father, posits Rain, was the GI who impregnated Madam Butterfly, Trouble the son he brought home after her suicide. To prevent scandal in his position as a senator, his wife claims Trouble is her own son. So naturally, he’s a rebellious mess who cuts a troubled (ha) path through life, with Sharpless trailing in his wake.
The beginning, telling Trouble’s story as he rises in popularity at Blaze before taking an almighty tumble is fantastic. Feels authentic and exciting (as well as giving me the title for my own memoirs, courtesy of Sophie Tucker, “Nobody Loves A Fat Girl, But Oh How A Fat Girl Can Love”). But then it slowly begins to unravel, as Rain’s reach exceeds his grasp.
As the book progresses, it becomes increasingly less interesting, for me. It stretched my suspension of disbelief to breaking point and beyond after we meet Sharpless’ loopy Aunt Tollie and he pursues Trouble through, seemingly, every major historical event around World War II. And the conclusion it comes to, well, it was way too much of a big pill to swallow.
A shame, since the opening section was so wonderful, it just made the descent into such a ludicrous finale all the more vexing.