Monday, December 23, 2013

9 Heart Review: Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Someone Else's Love Story
Joshilyn Jackson
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Page Count: 320

Release Date: November 19th 2013
Publisher: HarperLuxe (William Morrow; Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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.
"These are not mutually exclusive states of being."

Shandi Pierce is no stranger to miracles—she was still a virgin when she had her son, Natty, and he in the flesh is an everyday blessing—and so when, in an extraordinary turn of the cosmic screw during her move to Atlanta, she's held at gunpoint in a Circle K, she sees no other option than to consider her fateful meeting with William Ashe just that: a miracle. This is the moment that changes everything for her; it is the moment she decides she will no longer pretend that beautiful Natty's conception was a miracle—immaculate and tidy—and unbeknownst to her yet, it is the moment she embarks on the poignant quest to finally face up to reality.

Joshilyn Jackson's newest novel is a quirky, surprisingly tender journey that tests the boundaries of personal strengths, as well as weaves a glittering story about destiny or—as pushed by science and numbers—lack thereof.

The story consists of an exchange between two distinct narratives: Shandi's vivid, smart, and smart-assed first-person voice intertwined with Will's blunted, methodical, and seemingly objective point-of-view. The unique timeline—primarily placed in the present, but with flashes of significant events revealed during opportune moments—allows readers  to become intimate with both characters who are similar in that they are both cynically hopeful, loved, and lonely, but diverge because they are ultimately fighting their own inner battles—battles they expose to one another, but cannot expect the other to completely understand. This is, by any measure, a love story—multiple love stories—but it is not their love story, because their stories are established before they even get the chance to meet.

There's nothing that wasn't well done in this novel. The story is intriguing and immersed me completely; the style is at once unusual, observant, and accurate; and the characters are lively, unforgettable.

Shandi is a new favorite female protagonist of mine; she's all of cute, hilarious, mature but still playful, and kickass, and I loved getting to know her in mind and in heart. She totes her delightful genius son Natty—who is obsessed with insect abdomens and has the grammatical capacity of a 40-year-old English professor—and her best friend Walcott-the-poet—whom she's been overly dependent upon since childhood—to Atlanta and as her closest family, these two will absolutely make you melt. Will is a character who doesn't reveal much about himself, but is complex in his own way, and I loved how he is portrayed too.

When the two meet, it's an act of fate—of destiny—and it happens like a collision. Suddenly, Shandi is propelled to search for the truth about Natty's conception, while on the other end of the spectrum, Will learns, through Shandi's own frantic fixation, what faith is and what miracles are—things he never allowed himself to believe in previously, when his world was all science and coincidence. Shandi inadvertently shows Will that hope, that thing with feathers, will find a way to piece his broken life back together... and while the two fragmented souls use one another complete themselves, there is solace—and emptiness—in knowing they do not complete each other.

I can't say much more without giving the important plot points away, but I will end with this: Someone Else's Love Story is brilliant. It is complicated, inspiring, and transfixing, and I don't know how Jackson pulled it off, but it so perfectly embodies the pain of sacrifice—the giving up and giving in for love—as well as the importance of family, faith, and the true definition of being holy. The unorthodox style and the god-honest narration will have you chortling with glee, while the ironic, nearly sacrilegious parallels will stun you emotionally. You have got to read this book.

Pros


Amazing storytelling // Fresh, intelligent, witty voice // Elaborate, enjoyable style // LOVED Shandi // LOVED Will // Loved all the other characters // Huge plot twist that throws everything off cue // A nontraditional love story

Cons


The novel as a whole neglects the more pragmatic aspects of Shandi's life, such as school and work // Unresolved issues by the end

Love

William did nothing better than anyone I'd ever seen. His gaze was on the door, but it was blank. He was deep inside his head, and his foot twitched, faintly, like a dreaming dog's. It was as if he had a thousand toys packed up inside himself, and he didn't let my silent presence stop him from going down in there to get at them. It was weird, but kinda sexy. To be fair, though, I thought the way WIlliam turned oxygen into carbon dioxide was sexy.

Verdict


With incredible attention to detail and penetrating insight of the human syndrome, Someone Else's Love Story is an unconventional love story with a memorable, dazzlingly human cast of characters, and enough personality to make you want to become the author's best best friend. Joshilyn Jackson presents the best and the brightest of deep, soulful, sassy Southern literary fiction with her newest novel; Shandi's rightful investigation and Will's slow resurrection cross paths in an exquisite, charming story about chance, love, faith, and most of important of them all, hope Americanflag

9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf (x)