Published in 2015 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, the book is set in 1989 Baton Rouge, and follows the story of a teenager who finds himself a suspect in the rape of a 15-year-old girl from his idyllic, suburban neighborhood.
“M. O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love,” contest organizers wrote. “Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.”
“My Sunshine Away” won the Great Santini Fiction Prize from among 36 nominated titles. Finalists included “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee, “Soil” by Jamie Kornegay and “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” by Christopher Scotton.
Formerly known as the SIBA Book Award, the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize recognizes books that independent booksellers and their customers believe to be the best of Southern literature. Books are nominated by booksellers and their customers, vetted by bookstores and selected by a jury of Southern booksellers.
“These are the Southern books that Southern bookstores were most passionate about, and inspired the most ‘you’ve got to read this’ moments and ‘hand sell’ moments in stores across the South,” according to contest organizers.
It is the latest recognition in a string of honors that have been bestowed on Walsh for “My Sunshine Away.” In addition to being a New York Times Bestseller, the book was an Amazon Featured Debut, an Entertainment Weekly “Must” for 2015 and one of NPR’s 2015’s Great Reads.
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Walsh holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Mississippi. His stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Southern Review, American Short Fiction, Epoch, and Greensboro Review. His short stories have also been anthologized in “Best New American Voices,” “Bar Stories,” “Best of the Net” and “Louisiana in Words.”
The Creative Writing Workshop he oversees at UNO has both resident and low-residency MFA options.