Looking into the Sun is set on a ranch in Australia, home of eight-year-old Chloe Vanderweert, her father, mother and half-sister. Father Greg has set his heart on the production of lemon gin, which he wants his brother Brendan to produce. In Chapter One, however, Greg falls off his horse, is paralyzed and, soon after, dies leaving Chloe behind with her mother Linda, who is slowly going blind.
Before falling ill, her mother was a amateur photographer, and she now tries to battle her increasing blindness with photographs. Chloe’s older half-sister can no longer stand the camera and the one seeing, critical eye her mother has left. ‘Without your realizing it, she fastens [the eye] on to you and it sticks to you like a burr wherever you go.’ The girl flees to her natural father in the city. Provoost unfolds the sadness of those left behind on the ranch - linearly, but in fragments, as a child experiences and remembers.
The story is told from the point of view of young Chloe, who is alert and perceptive about their lives, often observing events with wonder, hinting at factual meaning and emotion. For instance, Chloe observes while understanding her mother’s misery and fear. The structure of the story contributes to the evocative atmosphere. Greg’s visit to his brother Brendan, which Chloe relates only late in the novel, puts a different perspective on events, starting with Greg’s death. Overshadowed by a vague threat, the backdrop to the desperate mother’s and naive daughter’s attempts to better understand each other is created by vivid descriptions of their surroundings, the climate, their way of life and other characters - often unfathomable themselves.
Anne Provoost about this book:
"While I was writing, I was mainly concerned with gaze of the child. She looks at her mother’s mourning process. The chapters of my book are snapshots of the period after the accident. With each snapshot I look at their grief from a different angle, and see it evolve. Their grief is not linear. Sometimes things seem to go better, but then there is a relapse.
As the father is not killed immediately, but dies only two weeks later, my characters go through the usual stages of trying to find who is guilty, realizing that it is senseless to blame anyone for an accident that was more about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The child does not understand everything it sees and hears, but the reader does, I think.
The characters are European (Belgian) migrants. I have relied on my own experiences as a migrant, living in Minneapolis. My husband and I decided to return to Belgium, even though we would have loved to stay in the US. We felt we would be happy in MN as long as things went well, but we would miss our family too much in moments of crisis. This way, my book has become a book about staying or leaving, about leaving behind, also."