First, the novel is allegorical in nature with meanings beyond the characters, the story, and the setting. In it can be found some truths and understanding of the human condition and human behavior. It was in college that I learned to read books and stories from a totally different perspective, and learned of symbolism and meanings beyond the characters and settings of the story. Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was inspired by him wanting to write a story about the duality of Human Nature. The Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, contains a powerful demonstration of experiential learning where Scrooge's encounter with the three ghosts results in him having complete transformation of character. Experiential learning can be defined as learning by experience as opposed to learning from books, classes, or a theoretical point of view.
SUNSHINE & THE SHADOWS can be read on many levels and I will suggest some of them in what follows. The levels will go deeper and deeper as you read down with each level encompassing all that came before. For purposes of definition, I will assign them a number ; the larger the number, the deeper the level.
1) You could read the story as an entertaining narrative that has some romance, some Good-Guys Vs Bad-Guys, some entertaining twists and turns, some drama, and a nice ending- a modern-day Western Novel.
2) Beyond, and including the above, you could see a theme in the story about well-meaning, but misinformed people imposing their misguided agenda on others. In this story, it is rich, guilt-ridden people from the city coming to a rural area and doing harm to others in the name of good. At this level, there is some redeeming social value in the story as well as gaining some perspective about the ripple effects of our actions. You could also find that you have gained a broader perspective with some areas of your life by you reading the novel.
3) Going still deeper and adding to the story, you could see symbolic meaning in the characters, the setting, and their actions. The San Luis Valley could represent America - or even the World - regarding the current conflict between militant environmental activists and the peaceful, nonpolitical populations who are adversely effected by the their belligerent agendas-most of the effects are beyond the activists scope of awareness or understanding. The novel's characters, Sunni Anderson and her friends represent the activists and the agendas they seek to impose on others-but not necessarily on themselves. The family of the El Valle Ranch, their friends and associates, symbolize a large segment of the population who are just trying to live-they have no major social agendas. Margo Turner embodies the negative aspect of the News Media and Activist Journalism. In the novel, you will find individuals who represent the good and the bad found in lawyers, law enforcement, and the legal system in general. There are representations of self-serving people, opportunists, and people who are as self-absorbed with their public image as they are void of character. Human strengths and human weaknesses play out with individuals as the story progresses.4) And beyond all the foregoing and at a much deeper and spiritual level, you will find transcendence for many of the players brought about - in the main - by Sunni Anderson as her love and affection for Mike Clawson and his family break her ego boundaries. The tragic ripple effects of her and her friend's actions cause her to do some deep soul searching, and begin to seek direction from a spiritual and intuitive realm. Sunni's actions from this space create ripple effects that brings much growth for some and brings justice for others. Her use of the Charles Dicken's story, "A Christmas Carole" creates a powerful scene of experiential realizations for her best friend, Michelle Liverman. Dicken's story is one of the most powerful stories ever written about experiential learning and transcendence. Some characters learn similar lessons. The scene where Sunni is alone in the field experiencing deep mental and emotional anguish creates a powerful metaphor for consciousness and awareness of seeking answers at a much higher level than the level of the cause. Her pretending to be the moon and looking at herself and the earth powerfully demonstrates detaching from the ego mind and emotions to where the mind is open and the answers easily flow to us-to many it is of God or of a Higher Power. It is from this place of an expanded awareness that Sunni Rae Anderson casts SUNSHINE on THE SHADOWS!