by Joshilyn Jackson
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama—an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives
Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to reinvent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birth name, Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. With the two of them separated, each holding her own secrets, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.
These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mystifying note: “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”
Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.
The Opposite of Everyone is a story about story itself, how the tales we tell connect us, break us, and define us, and how the endings and beginnings we choose can destroy us . . . and make us whole. Laced with sharp humor and poignant insight, it is beloved New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson at her very best.
Acclaim for The Opposite of Everyone
“The Opposite of Everyone is so fast-paced, smart, and witty that it’s tempting to rush to the end. Don’t. Careful readers will be rewarded by the intricate strata of stories—both real and mythical—that build in artful layers, playing off and enriching each other. Jackson draws from both rural Alabama folklore and the god stories of ancient India, weaving these narratives flawlessly toward a crescendo that is straight out of an O’Connor tale—inevitable, surprising, and beautifully true in every sense of the word. I loved this book and you will also.”—Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of At the Water’s Edge and Water for Elephants
“Joshilyn Jackson has written her most unforgettable character, Paula Vauss. I love her, I hate her, I want to yell at her, then laugh with her, then fight with her before drinking with her. But mostly I want her to be real. And I didn’t want her story to end. Like all special books, I feel grateful for having read it.”—Elaine Lui, founder of Lainey Gossip and author of Listen to the Squawking Chicken
“Part twisting suspense, part unflinching exploration of the world of abandoned and exploited girls, this book is tough as nails, narrated by a hard-boiled divorce attorney, Paula Vauss, who learns early how to fight dirty in order to survive. Fierce as Paula is, it is her great and loyal heart that animates these pages, leaving the reader energized and in awe. This is one of those books that keeps you up late reading and distracts you from your day, as you yearn to get back to its pages. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—Susan Rebecca White, author of A Soft Place to Land
“When he quit me at the end of August, he’d made it plain that I was worse than bad. I was evil and he was all three monkeys. He had a paw on each ear and each eye and two clapped over his mouth. Maybe more than two over the mouth; he said he couldn’t talk to me.”
“As I got older, I try to parse my history, to separate what she says from what I see. Impossible. My story is a Frankenstein’s monster made of stolen parts, many too small to be sourced, the original morals melded or cut away entirely. Every year of so, she reincarnates, whole, and makes me a fresh self, too. The only constant in my childhood is us.”
“‘I’m going to tell you something that happened a long time ago. A very long time ago, but it’s happening right now.’ That’s how Kai begins her bedtime stories. It’s her way of saying once upon a time.”
“I was doing endless pro bono hours of young nonviolent female criminals with bad boyfriends, as if I were the patron saint of dumbass girls.”
“If a fella was looking for love, I was the wrong road to go down. I was the road, in fact, that was crawling with barbed wire and bears and dynamite, marked with huge signs that said THERE IS NOTHING FOR YOU HERE.”
“I was halfway through my thirties, and biology had yet to trouble me with even a mild urge to reproduce. I couldn’t imagine that it would. I’d always joked that if my biological clock went off, I’d skip the snooze button and yank my whole alarm system out by the roots.”
Paula Vauss was raised by a single teenaged mother/hippie/con artist/petty criminal named Karen – who renamed herself as Kai. Kai had a fanciful imagination, love of cannabis, fascination for Hindu gods and mythology, and a vagabond nature. Kai continually reshaped their identities and histories for each new situation, town, or boyfriend. The narrative is written from Paula’s POV, and the storyline goes back and forth in time from Paula’s present as a wealthy and successful lawyer, to her flashbacks and remembrances of her unusual and bizarre childhood and her mother’s gift of story-telling.
Paula’s present is rather thorny due to the dissolution of her quasi-relationship and the displeasure of her co-workers, and she begins to further unravel when she receives a series of shocking revelations about her family. She attempts to solve the dilemma of her mother’s biggest secret and last trek, but is hampered by Kai’s history of cryptic communication and her abilities to remain off the grid.
The characters are smart, quirky, complicated, deeply flawed, struggling mightily, and unfailingly intriguing. The story is well written and craftily plotted with each layer of the onion cleverly peeled to reveal rich texture and delicious detail. I was enthralled, frustrated, fascinated, consumed, and highly entertained by this compelling tale.
About Joshilyn Jackson
Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including gods in Alabama, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, and Someone Else’s Love Story. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, she is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.