Sometimes I can’t think about a book — much less review it — without remembering the setting in which I was introduced to its characters.
When it comes to Joshilyn Jackson’s Someone Else’s Love Story, I devoured most of the novel in one sitting on an unusually chilly summer morning in Virginia. I’d been up since 3 a.m. to escort my guy to an amateur radio event (Awesome Fiance Award, party of one) and, if I didn’t have this novel to keep me company, I probably would have fallen asleep in a camp chair and wasted an entire morning — like, five hours — of uninterrupted reading time.
Plus, I might not have gotten so invested in this story.
But I did.
“At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.
Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day 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, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem — or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.” (Goodreads)
So we have two sets of principle players in this court of Jackson’s making: Shandi and Natty, her whip-smart and innocent son born after a very dubious beginning; and heartbroken, rational geneticist William Ashe, a scientist with a dark and twisty past.
Shandi and William collide at a Georgia gas station when they’re unexpectedly thrust into a life-or-death situation. Only after the smoke clears does young Shandi realize William could be the answer to her mixed-up prayers — but she has no clue that William may not be in a position to love anybody back.
I’ll be upfront by stating I’m a total Joshilyn Jackson fangirl. Girlfriend can write like nobody’s business and create realistic, unique and multifaceted characters — most of them Southern — unlike any author I’ve read. I am simply in awe of her ability to craft stories that simultaneously entertain and smash your little heart, and Someone Else’s Love Story was no exception.
Because William? Awesome. I unintentionally went through a spate of reading this summer featuring characters on the autism spectrum, and Jackson’s novel was the last in a trio of books with autistic main characters. The best part of each story was, undoubtedly, that the men in these novels weren’t simply “quirky” background characters; they were leading men. Leading men in love, and with plenty of love to give.
I’m going to show my ignorance here and admit I have little personal experience with autism or Asperger syndrome, but I appreciated getting a glimpse into other minds through “the Aut-astic Dr. Ashe” and the gentlemen in my other reading. I feel a tiny bit more understanding, a little more open and influenced. And that’s a good thing.
For much of the novel, William himself is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. I don’t want to give anything away here, but there was a giant BOOM! somewhere in this novel that seriously threw me for a loop but absolutely delighted me. Like, seriously delighted me. Big-soppy-grin-on-my-face delighted me, and all because I totally did not see it coming. I spent so much time wondering about the fate of Shandi and the resolution to her secrets that I wasn’t putting together other little clues throughout the text.
And the clues were awesome.
So, you know, this isn’t a perfect book. I had some issues with how certain threads from the past were presented and would have liked to better understand Walcott, himself an interesting (and poetic!) character . . . but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise enjoyable story. Fans of Southern fiction and Jackson’s unique brand of storytelling will find another winner in their hands as her latest releases this fall.
4 out of 5!