Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Someone Else's Love Story, by Joshilyn Jackson

William Ashe and Shandi Pierce are both ripe for change when they are caught up in a convenience store robbery gone wrong. For William, a studly geneticist on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, it is the one-year anniversary of the day his wife and daughter were in a fatal car accident. Shandi, a single mother whose three-year-old son Natty was (she claims) a virgin birth, is moving from her mother's home in rural Georgia to her father's "spare" condo in Atlanta so Natty can attend a preschool better suited to his quick mind. When the two find themselves hostages of an incompetent robber, William shields Natty from harm and eventually brings the robber down. Shandi immediately decides William is her destiny and begins showing up at his house, with Natty, as he convalesces. Neither Shandi's BFF Walcott nor William's confidant Paula are keen about this development.

Along with her decision that William is meant for her, Shandi also decides that she has to give up the myth of the virgin birth and find Natty's father, a frat boy who managed to impregnate her without successful intercourse. William is the obvious choice to help with this process, and it takes him very little time, with the assistance of Paula, a divorce lawyer who represents women only, to identify the culprit. Oddly, William is able to identify through DNA analysis that Natty's biological father also is on the autism spectrum. Shandi confronts the father, with somewhat offputting results, at least for this reader.

The book has a number of twists and surprises--some are genuinely surprising, some not. Several are highly improbable. Jackson brings humor to the story without using behavior caused by William's disorder as a punch line; I appreciated this (especially after reading The Rosie Project).  Less successful for me was her weaving of religious themes into the story: William's wife had wanted to be a nun early in her life and her faith had created some conflicts in their relationship; Shandi's parents seem to have divorced primarily because they were of different faiths; both Shandi and William have experiences that may or may not have religious significance. Unfortunately--and perhaps because I just am not a religious person--none of this caused me to think more deeply about faith. Ultimately, Someone Else's Love Story is mostly a rom-com with a twist of Southern humor that is marred by a somewhat troubling treatment of sexual assault and (for me) religious references that don't really go anywhere.

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