Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Amy Mason Doan's "Lady Sunshine"

Amy Mason Doan is the bestselling author of Lady Sunshine, The Summer List, and Summer Hours.

Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon with her family. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a reporter & editor for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, and other publications. Doan has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Lady Sunshine.
Jackie – Florence Pugh
Willa – Elle Fanning
Shane – Luke Kirby
Bree – Queen Latifah
Graham – Jeff Tweedy

Lady Sunshine is a surprise inheritance story that, in my totally unbiased opinion, would make a fantastic movie. We follow main character Jackie Pierce in two time periods – 1979 and 1999. In ’79, Jackie is a restless, fiery, unhappy teen sent to live with her musical, bohemian relatives for the summer at The Sandcastle. It’s a gorgeous place cut off from the rest of the world -- a wild, sprawling estate in far northern coastal California. She forms an intense bond with her hippie cousin Willa, although the two couldn’t be more different, and she has the best summer of her life with the many free spirited visitors who flock there.

But at the end of the summer, Jackie flees for mysterious reasons. Twenty years later, Jackie, now a staid music teacher in Boston, inherits The Sandcastle and returns “just to pack up and sell it.”

Of course it’s not that simple…

Jackie in ’99 is keeping a lot of secrets, and she’s buried her teenage boldness for reasons we don’t understand until the end of the book, but we can still see a flicker of that fire. The musicians who come to The Sandcastle to record a tribute album to Jackie’s uncle in the present thread of the story help her rediscover that old self – and the passions she’s been stuffing deep down for many years.

Florence Pugh would capture both Jackie’s fierce and tender sides, and would make us feel her joy and vulnerability as she opens up to love with album producer Shane. (Plus, I’ve seen Pugh’s incredible performance in The Little Drummer Girl so I know she can rock 70s fashion…)

Willa, Jackie’s cousin, is ethereal and dreamy. She loves the outdoors, surfing, Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading. She spends weeks by herself alone in nature, but she sees a lot in those woods. Elle Fanning, who was brilliant in the 70s-set family drama 20th Century Women, would be amazing.

Shane, the love interest and general pot- (and plot-) stirrer in 1999, is obsessed with the music Jackie’s late uncle made, and he convinces her to let him and his entourage stay at The Sandcastle to record a tribute album. Jackie’s immediately drawn to him, though she doubts his motives.

Luke Kirby would embody Shane’s mysterious and playful sides. I love him as Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I’m obsessed with his performance in Sarah Polley’s haunting film Take this Waltz.

Bree Lang is a famous singer who takes part in the 1999 tribute-album project for personal reasons. She and Jackie become unlikely friends. She’s one of the few characters in the book who manages to handle her fame with grace, and she can slip seamlessly between private and public worlds. Bree is authentic one-on-one and on-stage.

I’ve always visualized Queen Latifah in this role. Her performance as a mesmerizing singer and Holly Hunter’s friend in Living Out Loud is one of my favorites among her many roles. She’d be a dream.

Graham Kingston is Jackie’s uncle & Willa’s father. In 1979, he’s a faded folk singer who presides over The Sandcastle like a king. He relishes that role since his star has dimmed...we learn that record producers “see only his numbers, not his words.” Jackie idolizes him and his songwriting talent, but she realizes that he’s a deeply flawed human. I think I based Graham on David Crosby with dashes of Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Graham is leonine in appearance-- hulking and heavyset, with a mane of blond hair. I’d love to see Jeff Tweedy of Wilco explore a darker side of his artistic personality for this role.

Since I got the idea for Lady Sunshine’s central plot (the tribute album) from the Wilco/Billy Bragg album Mermaid Avenue, it’d be fitting.
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Hours.

--Marshal Zeringue