Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Opposite of Everyone

Joshilyn Jackson has been on my radar for a few years now via two of her previous six novels, gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and those two were enough to make me want to read her latest, The Opposite of Everyone.  This one features one of the least likable heroines (at least as the story begins) that I’ve encountered for a while…a divorce lawyer who is every bit as cutthroat as her real world counterparts. 

To her credit, Paula learned to play that kind of legal hardball the hard way.  She never knew who her father was, and her mother was a shape-shifter who changed her own name and occupation to more closely fit into the environments of a stream of live-in lovers.  Bad as that may have been, things got even worse for Paula and her mother when the cops busted one of Kai’s men.  While her mother served time for a related offense, Paula’s lessons into the ways of the world continued in the state-run school for parentless girls that became her new home.

So, all things considered, Paula has turned out pretty well.  She’s now a prominent Atlanta divorce attorney, partner in a three-attorney firm that appears to be doing quite well from the pain of others (is that too cynical on my part?).  But, like Kai, Paula is unable to sustain long-term relationships of her own – even with Kai, it seems.  And now, in a rather cryptic note (even that much communication between the mother and daughter is rare) Kai announces that she has a very few weeks left to live.  Oh, and by the way, she does not want Paula to come to her in San Antonio, thanks very much.  As it turns out, Paula has no intention of visiting her dying mother anyway, so her mother’s instructions are not exactly a crushing disappointment to her.

Kai, though, has a couple of big surprises for Paula, and when the first one shows up in her office, Paula’s world – and her way of looking at that world – begin to change for the better.  Via alternating flashbacks from the present to Paula’s childhood experiences, The Opposite of Everyone tells an intriguing story of a grown woman who in every sense is still struggling to figure out who she is.  And she is in for a big surprise.

Author Joshilyn Jackson
Joshilyn Jackson is a good storyteller, an author who places believable characters into unusual situations that will test what is at their core.  My only quarrel with The Opposite of Everyone is that near the end of the novel, the flashbacks really began to slow the plot’s momentum – even to the point that I was tempted to skip the flashback and read the next real-time chapter instead.  In two or three instances, I found that to be particularly frustrating.  My anxiety to find out what happens next probably speaks well for plot’s effectiveness, but not for how the flashback device itself was executed.

Bottom Line: The Opposite of Everyone has a good story to tell, and if you are a little more patient than me, you’re really going to like this one.  Look for this one in February.

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