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 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 fell in love with Someone Else’s Love Story the first time I read those opening lines in a teaser post a few months ago.
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.
Oh, Lord, have I ever mentioned how much I adore Joshilyn Jackson books? Almost to the point where I have a writer-crush on her. (I think actually stuttered when I met her a year or so ago. Writers are my rock stars. It was rather embarrassing.) My cheapskate-butt actually paid FULL PRICE for a hardcover of her last book, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty just so she could sign it. Needless to say, I had big expectations for Someone Else’s Love Story—the kind that can be scary for a writer if they know how much we anticipate from their shiny strings of words and disappointing to a reader if those words don’t flash like diamonds.
Someone Else’s Love Story did not disappoint.
The opening scene is like a bad joke: a meth head, an autistic genius, a too-young mom, and a brilliant toddler born from a virgin walk into a convince store . . . What happens next is far from convenient. (Oops. I almost wrote covenant. Nuns play a role in this story, too.)
If you’re held up at gunpoint, your life MUST change in some earth-shattering ways, right? Since almost all the characters involved were already living beside the river DENIAL, things start flowing.
This book deals with a smorgasbord of heavy stuff: crime, trauma, grief, child-loss, rape, religion, autism, drugs, and more. But before your forehead gets all scrunched up—this book is also damn funny. In between, Jackson manages to wriggle in destiny vs. choice, science vs. religion, chemistry vs. friendship, miracles vs.explanations—and fireworks, birdhouses, and sweet poets named Walcott.
I couldn’t help being engaged by William and Shandi, flaws and all. The characters are just so colorfully drawn. Even little Natty is divine (I pictured him as that precociously adorable blond kid from Jerry Maguire). And although some of the secondary characters come off as a might-bit brash, a little off, or lacking morals, I came to see the motivations for their ways.
These characters, even the ones I held dear, fight against things they know to be true. They banish their golems to the closet even though they know the door locks are broken, and eventually the bad is going to bust out. They make choices the reader may not agree with, but hey, it’s the character’s choice.
So much of this tale is backstory. Technically, all the answers must be found there, and the reader is lured along as hunks of the characters pasts are unveiled, sometimes even to the characters themselves. This can be clunky in novels, but here it’s integrated so well, I hardly noticed the jaunts from past to present. Jackson also knows her way around imagery and metaphor [“walking into air so thick with cat-fight tension that to me it tasted just like estrogen”] saturating the prose with a style I can only think of as deliciously Southern.
The novel is short—a scant 300 or so pages—and while I was dying to know how certain storylines would play in the future (which I can’t mention due to spoilers), I admire her restraint in just letting the ending be. Good things must come to an end.
Oh, and did I mention that she released an e-original short story that gives a fierce and funny character from Someone Else’s Love Story a standalone adventure all her own? Check out My Own Miraculous: A Short Story currently on sale on Amazon for a steal at
$1.99 $0.99!! Yeah–ninety-nine cents! (Thanks for the heads-up Mom.)
Someone Else’s Love Story is the She Reads Book Club November pick. If you head over there, you can WIN 1 of 5 beautiful copies they’re giving away before the book releases November 18th. Ms. Jackson will be dropping by She Reads all month sharing exclusive content including pictures of her writing space, the inspiration behind the novel, and the short story prequel to the novel (among other things). Make sure you check it out. I certainly will.
Someone Else’s Love Story: A Novel
by Joshilyn Jackson
Print Length: 320 pages
Release date: November 19, 2013
*Joshilyn Jackson narrates the Audible Audio Edition herself. I’ve heard her audio books are absolutely amazing.