Joshilyn Jackson tackles love, science and miracles in her sixth book, released this week.
A master storyteller and creator of characters who feel like they could be members of your own family, Joshilyn Jackson cements her place in the canon of Southern literature with each new book. Her sixth was released this week and called “an inspiring story of love, faith, and redemption” by Booklist. One of our Fall/Winter Reading picks, Someone Else’s Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson at her best, but also pushing the boundaries of her writing and her readers just a bit.
“I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K,” reads the opening line of Someone Else’s Love Story. Fans of Jackson will recognize speaker of that quote Shandi Pierce as one of her lovable but troubled female characters. Think Arlene Fleet from Gods in Alabama. Shandi is a 21-year-old single mother who claims she has experienced a virgin birth. She and her 3-year-old son are caught in a convenience store robbery, along with brilliant geneticist William Ashe, whose makeup contains some “specific duplications and deletions.” William, who lost everything that matters to him one year ago, steps between the armed robber and Shandi’s son, making him the hero of the hour when he rescues all of the hostages.
Shandi falls in love with William way before the rescue, but as seems to be her luck, doesn’t realize she’s stepping smack dab into someone else’s love story.
“And that was it. That was when it happened. I lowered my body to the ground, and all of me was falling, faster than I could physically move, way further than a glance or an attraction, falling so hard into deep, red, desperate love. I lay flat on the Circle K’s dirty, cool floor, but the heart of me kept tumbling down.” – Shandi, Chapter 1
During the SheReads Twitter chat on Monday night, which Deep South co-hosted, Jackson said her publisher William Morrow didn’t like the title at first, but once they read the book, they realized its perfection. Haven’t we all fallen in love with someone from afar, imagined what we think their life is like and then inserted ourselves in there with only a happy ending in sight?
Jackson makes this a fun read by asking the reader for a certain suspension of disbelief and infusing just the right balance of science and magic. And since this is a love story, after all, what would it be without a romantic poet? Shandi’s best friend Walcott, who emerged as a character favorite during the Twitter chat, sprinkles the book with verses, and Jackson reveals in the acknowledgements that she was inspired by poet Robin Behn’s poem “It Is Not Always Possible to Fall in Love in Blackberry Season.”
That poem led to Walcott’s character, who rounds out a cast that also includes William’s best friend and protector Paula, possible rapist and recovering frat boy Clayton Lilli and Shandi’s tragic but typical Southern mother, Mimmy. (For those who want to read more scenes with Mimmy’s character, like I did, get Jackson’s short story “My Own Miraculous.”)
As is usually the case with her books, Jackson will have you rethinking your own human connections and examining your heart after finishing Someone Else’s Love Story. And in an interview with author Christina Baker Kline, she had this to say about keeping your eyes open for everyday miracles: “Someone Else’s Love Story is full of huge, overblown miracles … But they are all fake. They are all explained away and undercut. They are dust. The real miracles are smaller … They spark and pop for only a moment before they begin to diffuse and spread themselves like mist into the story. They change everything.”
We have one copy of Someone Else’s Love Story to give away. To enter to win, head on over to Literary Friday and make a comment. You’ll automatically be entered, and we’ll choose a winner on Monday.