Monday, December 16, 2013

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Reviewed by Kristin

Shandi, a  21-year-old college senior, is still at home being mothered by her mother, while she is trying to be a mother to three-year-old Nathan.  After “Natty” teaches himself to read and his IQ is found to be in the genius range, Shandi’s father (or rather, her step-mother Bethany) invites Shandi and her son to come live in their Atlanta condo so that Nathan will have the opportunity to attend an academically appropriate pre-school. Shandi jumps at the chance to live ten minutes away from Georgia State instead of two hours away in her small mountain town.

Shandi, Natty, and best-friend Walcott are on their way to Atlanta in her bright yellow VW bug when suddenly Natty declares that his throat feel “tickle-y.”  As any mother of a carsick prone child would do, Shandi makes the quickest exit she can and stops the car for some side of the road throwing up, and then a trip the Circle K for some ginger ale.  Unfortunately, this is where their day goes downhill, and quickly.

The first paragraph of the book reads:

    “I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K.  It was on a Friday
    afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had
    all been boiled red.  We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32
    that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could.”

The author says that William is a character she has had bumping around in her head for a decade.  He is a scientist, thinking in terms of black and white, yes or no, and does not in any way believe in destiny.  William believes that what happens is a direct result of choices that people make, not some mystical force that causes the universe to unfold in a certain way.  William is standing in the Circle K staring at the laundry detergent when a man walks in with that ancient, creaky .32.  As the gunman orders everyone to the ground, William slides eighteen inches to the side, putting himself between the gun and Natty.

This is a book about miracles, although not the huge, visible miracles that some of the characters believe in, but the tiny miracles that bubble up unexpectedly.  Joshilyn Jackson is a talented author who writes vivid prose in such a way that you can almost taste the words, rich and full.  In this particular book, Jackson throws in plot twists that I did not anticipate, yet draws the strings together and makes the conclusion a satisfying one.  The images she creates with her written words will stay with you long after finishing the book.

Because I have read and enjoyed all of Jackson’s previous books, I went to Asheville last week to buy this book at Malaprops bookstore, and to hear Jackson speak.  She is an entertaining speaker and even made my teenage daughter laugh.  If you ever have chance to hear her, I would highly recommend doing so.  If you missed Jackson’s previous books, you can read a brief overview of each book that we posted on the bookblog back in April by clicking here.

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