Book Talk: SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY, by Joshilyn Jackson

Someone Else's Love Story Joshilyn Jackson indiebound
Someone Else’s Love Story: A Novel
Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow (November 2013), Hardcover (ISBN 0062105655 / 9780062105653)
Fiction, 320 pages
Source: ARC from publisher
She Reads Book Club selection (November 2013)

I’m not adding a lot of “women’s fiction” to the shelves of TBR Purgatory lately. It seems to have lost some freshness for me, and I’ve wanted some time away from that book-club-friendly space where character relationships and plot development braid together and feed each other. And as a one-time Southerner, I’ve long been wary of the quirkiness that’s frequently stirred into both of those elements when a novel is set in that region. But I’ve enjoyed previous novels by Joshilyn Jackson even though they fall into both of those camps, so I hoped to set aside those issues when I got the chance to read her newest one, Someone Else’s Love Story.

Jackson got me past any misgivings I had about the material here by surprising me over and over again. Because I’d like you to experience those surprises yourself if you decide to read Someone Else’s Love Story, I’ll leave the details vague, but I will say this wasn’t the story I expected it to be.

The intense, mildly absurd attempted convenience-store robbery that opens the novel connects the search for a young boy’s unlikely father with a father’s struggle to accept the shocking loss of his small daughter via questions about destiny and will. The novel’s narration shifts not just between characters, but also in perspective–Shandi speaks for herself, while William’s chapters are written in the third person–and the choice reinforces just how differently they deal with the world, and with how the world has brought them together.

I’m not entirely sure who the “someone else” of the title is meant to be, and I’m not sure Jackson’s characters are, either. And I really think that’s what made this work for me. Someone Else’s Love Story was a particularly satisfying read for me because it proved to be something other than the story that I thought it would be.

Rating: 3.75 of 5

Book description, from the publisher’s website:

For single mom Shandi Pierce, life is a juggling act. She’s finishing college; raising her delightful three-year-old genius son, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo; and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough to deal with before she gets caught in the middle of a stickup in a gas station mini-mart and falls in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who steps between the armed robber and her son to shield the child from danger. Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god has his own baggage. When he looked down the barrel of the gun in the gas station he believed it was destiny: it’s been exactly one year since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. 

Now, William and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.

From Chapter One:

“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.
I thought then that I had landed in my own worst dream, not a love story. Love stories start with a kiss or a meet-cute, not with someone getting shot in a gas station minimart. Well, no, two people, because that lady cop took a bullet first.
But there we were, William gone still as a pond rock, me holding a green glass bottle of Coca-Cola and shaking so hard it was like a seizure. Both of us were caught under the black eye of that pistol. And yet seventeen seconds later, before I so much as knew his name, I’d fallen dizzy-down in love with him.”

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