Sometimes, I will open NetGalley just for fun to see if there’s anything new that looks interesting. When my eyes fell upon Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen, I was immediately intrigued, even more so after reading the description. My friends over at Linden Tree Books once again came through and I was able to grab a physical copy to read.
Vietnamese refugees Debbie and Phil have worked hard since their troubled departure from Vietnam and have made a good life for themselves in Toronto. Their little nail salon Sunshine Nails isn’t raking in the big bucks, but they are doing okay for themselves. That is, until multimillion dollar chain salon Take Ten decides it’s going to open across the street. To make matters worse, their landlord doubles the rent on their space and now things are getting dire. But alongside their daughter Jessica, their son Dustin, and their niece Thuy, the Trans throw everything they have into keeping the salon afloat. As the lines between right and wrong get blurred, relationships are put to the test and they have to decide what’s more important - keeping their family intact or keeping their salon open.
I absolutely hate to say this. I really, really hate it. But this book just did not live up to my expectations. While it was overall a good story, I didn’t find myself really caring about any of the characters. The story is told in five POVs - one from each of the Trans - and I think that is what kept me from really feeling like I could connect to any one character. It just felt like a lot to try to pack into one story.
While I wasn’t fully invested in the characters themselves, I did find myself invested in the fight to keep Sunshine Nails open despite Take Ten opening up across the street. I am a sucker for an underdog story and there’s nothing like a small mom-and-pop shop working hard to stay alive while a multimillion dollar competitor opens across the street (and steals more than just their customers). It probably helped that the competitor was clearly a bit racist and I always get fiery when racism comes up (which, granted, happens a lot because the world sucks).
Overall, this was a decent book. I just never got fully invested in the story in a way that made me care what happened to the characters. It’s probably not a good sign when the thing I cared about most was that the racist owner of the competing salon got what was coming to her. It's a quick, light read that I can definitely see some people falling in love with - it just didn't hit the right note for me personally.
Sunshine Nails is Mai Nguyen’s debut novel and hits shelves on July 4, 2023. Preorder a copy for yourself here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will also be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books without whom this review would not be possible! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."