So, Joshilyn Jackson...As I mentioned, I'd never read her before. But then she walked into the room and started talking about her new book and kinda made me wonder why my head had been up my ass for so long. This woman is funny. Damn funny. And smart. And did I mention the funny? She's also Southern, so when she sat down across from me, we got our drawl on, much to the amusement (and possible dismay) of the Yankee booksellers surrounding us.
Someone Else's Love Story is very much a relationship book. Not necessarily a romance book, because just as much of the time it's about the relationship between a parent and a child or two best friends from childhood. Since most of the fiction I read could open with the line, "It was a dark and literary night," this book was something of a revelation. It's snappily written without necessarily being literary, and though there are some darker moments, it is, overall, a lighter read. I also think that children are particularly difficult to write well in books for adults, but Jackson succeeds on that front.
There are two narrators in this book: A first person narration from Shandi, who is young mother to little Natty, best friend to Walcott, and daughter of a whacked out and divorced set of parents. Then there's a third person narration telling the story of William, a genetics scientist who is somewhere on the autistic/Asperger's spectrum and grieving from the loss of his wife and little girl from a car crash. Thank goodness his own best friend, Paula, is there to help pick up the pieces.
One year to the date after said car crash, William and Shandi cross paths in a Circle K during an armed robbery, an event that binds them together for the rest of the novel. The moment William puts himself directly between Natty and the barrel of the gun, Shandi falls for him. Nobody is happy about this, least of all Shandi's friend Walcott or William's friend Paula. In the mean time, Shandi and Natty have moved out of her mother's place in the country to move into her father's townhouse in, well, town in an effort to be closer to her school--she's gone back to school to finish her degree after taking time off for Natty's birth.
Amidst the trauma of being held at gunpoint and living in the city again, Shandi makes the decision to enlist William's help in discovering the boy who sexually assaulted her when she was in high school. Here's where it gets a bit complicated. You see, technically Shandi was a virgin when she gave birth to Natty. Yes, she'd been assaulted, but her would-be rapist got his jollies on, er, prematurely and thus the virgin birth.
Anxieties, middle class mayhem, a Molotov cocktail, and unconventional love letters ensue. In the end, the author throws a couple of twists (one of which I actually did not see coming). I loved this book up until the last 40 pages or so, and then I downshifted into merely liking it, but I have to say, this was one of those books that kept distracting me whenever I wasn't reading it. This book definitely wasn't my usual read, but I'm awfully glad that I broke through and discovered this author. Her writing is infused with warmth and humor, and who says a book where nothing truly terrible happens is a bad thing? (Well, Cormac McCarthy probably says that...)
Here is an excerpt from her acknowledgements, which is a fairly representative sample of her writing. I kind of love this, not least because she thanks booksellers like me and uses the word "posse":
I cannot function as a human, much less as a writer, without the following four posses: My reader posse: That's pretty much you, Person Who Bought This Book. You are letting me keep this job I love. Thank you. If you're one of those passionate and miraculous bookstore handsellers or big-mouthed, wonderful readers who recommend my books to other people, then I feel so warmly toward you, we should probably make out a little.See what I mean? Funny stuff. She goes on to thank her writer posse, her family posse, and her Jesus posse, and immediately ends with "Shalom, y'all." Joshilyn Jackson is a person I want to know. And maybe make out with a little.
NB: This book will be published in December 2013 by William Morrow. I read an ARC that I received upon my request.