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The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

Автором Joshilyn Jackson

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The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

Автором Joshilyn Jackson

4/5 (24 оценки)
394 pages
7 hours
Feb 16, 2016


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 nationally 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 re-invent 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. Separated, each holding secrets of her own, 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 mysterious 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.

Feb 16, 2016

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Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

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  • She will never say, You didn’t know, or You were just a kid, much less own up to her part in our downfall. I will never say, If you live a life shaped like a loaded gun, your kid is going to come along and shoot it, and then forgive her anyway.

  • Now my smile felt as wide as hers had ever been, and my eyes felt hot, although I didn’t cry. I thought I’d likely pull my own eyes out and throw them in a fire before I cried in front of Shar Roberson.

  • I didn’t spot its small glass eye gleaming at me, but security cameras were what rich people had in lieu of peepholes. I could feel it, that faint electric charge that crept across my skin when I was being watched.

  • Holy shit!” she says.Shocking, coming out of that mouth. It is a sweet and elderly little mouth, crumpling in on itself, with her coral lipstick leaking into the wrinkles. The therapist and I both do a double take.

  • We helped him maneuver through the door, aiming right at the bed.“Dump him facedown, in case he pukes,” I told Julian, who did not react. He might be naive, but he had been to college.

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The Opposite of Everyone - Joshilyn Jackson


With gratitude for good teachers. Here are some of mine:

Ruth Ann Replogle

Dr. Yolanda Reed

Chuck Preston

Astrid Santana

Dr. David Gushee


Heartily know,

When half-gods go,

The gods arrive.


And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,

but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,

I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty

to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,

a remote important region in all who talk:

though we could fool each other, we should consider—

lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.


A Ritual to Read to Each Other




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13


Excerpt from NEVER HAVE I EVER

Chapter 1

P.S. Insights, Interviews & More . . .*

About the author

About the book

Read on


Also by Joshilyn Jackson



About the Publisher


I was born blue.

If my mother hadn’t pushed me out quick as a cat, I would have been born dead and even bluer; her cord was wrapped tight around my neck. She looked at my little blue lips, my blue toes and baby fingers, and she named me after Kali. Kali Jai.

My mother was in the middle of a six-month stint in juvie for shoplifting and possession when I was born. She had thirty-six hours with me in the hospital before the state took her to finish out her sentence. My grandparents—stiff, unhappy couple that they were—got temporary custody.

Kai told them my name, but my prune-mouthed gramma filled out the paperwork. Gramma would later claim to have misheard, saying, What I put on that birth certificate sounds like whatever that was you said, but in American. My mother didn’t know until she was released back into her parents’ custody. By then, everyone in town was calling me Paula Jane.

You were originally named for the mother goddess who brings hope and springtime, Kai told me often, when I was growing up. My lullabies were praise hymns—Kali, Jai Kalika!—sung in my mother’s smoky alto, and Kali starred in many of my bedtime tales. I’d fall asleep imagining a goddess made of sun and flowers, gold and green, and beautiful.

When I was five, I found a picture of Kali in one of my mother’s sketchbooks. Kai was drawing a series of gods in colored pencil. I recognized some of them as characters from her stories. Hard to miss Ganesha, a big-bellied fellow with an elephant’s head, dancing with his trunk curled high. And I knew Hanuman, the monkey god, leaping over the ocean with a bouquet of mountains in his hands. Then I saw my own name. Kali.

Hope and springtime was jet blue and savage, her skin a stark contrast to the burning city serving as her backdrop. She waved silver scimitars and torches in her many arms, standing barefoot on a dead man’s chest. Her skirt was made of human heads and hands, and her flame-red tongue was impossibly long, unfurled to swing between her naked breasts. My mother found me staring at this image, my fingers tracing the familiar letters of my own name beneath it.

Am I bad? I asked her.

No, baby, no. Of course not. She sat down on the floor beside me and pulled me into her lap, sketchbook and all. You can’t think of Kali in such a Western way. She spoke with all the authority vested in her by her flea-market prayer beads and her lotus-flower tramp stamp. She explained that in the Eastern Hemisphere—a half of the world that she had neither seen nor deeply studied—Kali meant change.

Kali destroys only to renew, to restore justice. Kali brings fresh starts, she said. She leaned her head down over me to whisper. Her hair was long and dark, and it fell around us in a tent, smelling like campfire smoke and orange peel. Your name literally means Hail to the Mother, over in India.

But I was born in Alabama. My mother invoked Kali on the black and bloody soil of the American South, and she didn’t get renewal, hope, or springtime. She got me.

And wouldn’t she be proud of me right now, if she were here? And if she were speaking to me. I was parked in front of Zach Birdwine’s house in the East Atlanta Village, stalking him, determined to force a fresh start of some kind or another. I was better at the burning part, quite frankly. I certainly wasn’t here to crawl up in his lap and ask him, sweetly, Am I bad?

It wasn’t the kind of question I asked anymore; I was a divorce lawyer, and as such, I knew to never ask the question if I didn’t want the answer. Granted, this answer was changeable, depending on who told my story. Most clients would protest that I was the epitome of goodness, thank you, while their exes wouldn’t answer with anything printable. My friends and business partners liked me fine, but my own mother had changed her answer long ago.

To be fair, the first time I asked her, I had yet to ruin her life.

And Birdwine? 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.

I hadn’t seen that as a problem. Birdwine and I weren’t the kind who went around having swampy feelings, much less yammering about them. If he needed to talk, well, wasn’t that what AA was for? He’d known I wasn’t anybody’s priestess or therapist years before we rolled into the same bed. But one day he decided—almost randomly, it seemed to me—that he was done with me.

Well, fine. But I wasn’t done with him.

All ye gods and little fishes, stalking Zach Birdwine was dull work, though. I didn’t know how crazy people managed it, squatting in the closet of whatever movie star had caught their fancy, fondling undergarments, sniffing shoes, and waiting, waiting, waiting. I’d been here so long, I’d had to go refill my gas tank to keep the car warm. All apologies to Mother Earth, but I couldn’t properly stalk Birdwine with no heater here in February. Not unless I wanted to turn blue again.

I’d worked on a motion I was drafting until my laptop battery ran down. I’d eaten the tacos I’d gotten from the taquería across the street and all the Tic Tacs I had picked up at the gas station. I’d paid all my bills online via my iPhone, finished the book I was reading, and practically worn out my touch screen playing the sudoku app.

Now I sat stewing, staring back and forth between Birdwine’s junky bungalow and the road, willing his old Ford to come belching down the street. Maybe it already had. Maybe he’d seen my Lexus and kept right on driving. I thought of it as an anonymous kind of car, and in my neighborhood, it was. But here, on this edge of the village, gentrification was a failing work in progress. My car stuck out like a sleek, black thumb, parked between some barista-slash-musician’s little Civic and ancient Mrs. Carpenter’s crumbling heap of Buick.

Still, he had to come home sometime. He lived here, and the second bedroom was his office. So far, he’d ignored two voicemails, three emails, six texts, and a pricey muffin basket with lemon curd and local honey. Now he got me on his doorstep until he either faced me or abandoned his dog and all his worldly belongings.

The funny part was that Birdwine himself could well be sitting in his own car with a sack of tacos and a sudoku puzzle, stalking someone else. He was a private investigator; stakeouts were his bread and butter.

Perhaps the waiting is less onerous when one is being paid for it, I thought, and then realized that I should be paid, actually. Zach Birdwine was my ex, sure, but I was a stalker-by-proxy, acting on behalf of Daphne Skopes. As soon as I got my laptop charged, I’d log these hours and add them to the huge bill she’d already run up with my partner Nick. He’d looped me in because this case had started rotten and was quickly going rancid.

It had begun when Daphne Skopes came home from a girls’ weekend in Turks and Caicos to find her husband had changed the locks and canceled her credit cards. He’d drained their joint accounts, as well.

To be fair, the other girl on the getaway had a Y chromosome, a silky mustache, and a place in Daphne’s bed. Her husband was not feeling reasonable, and his last settlement offer had been the title to her car. Period. No alimony, no part of the retirement accounts, no cash, and neither their house in town nor their Savannah beach house.

Bryan Skopes was trying to starve his wife, who had no real assets, into accepting any bone he cared to throw her. His role was to alternately bluster and look martyred, while his lawyer practiced obfuscation and delay. Between them they had stretched every step of these proceedings past all reason. They had botched discovery, sending partial documents or unreadably poor copies. They had filed endless motions for continuance. They had rescheduled every mediation at the last minute. Nick hadn’t even been able to get his motion for fees before a judge yet. Months had passed, the bill was deep into five figures, and our firm had yet to see a dime.

I’d watched Bryan Skopes puff and rage with gusto, then let his eyes dampen in a wounded but manly fashion. He was fully committed, going for the Oscar, but I didn’t buy his story. When we met, there had been a pulse, a moment when he ran a stealthy gaze over my body. It left a faint patina of some filth, sexual in nature, like a slime against my skin. I kept my face impassive, but inside, I’d started smiling. I’d seen his small, soft rotten patch. His weakness was women, and if I could prove it, the wronged husband act would ricochet and hurt his case. He was crafty as hell, though; Nick’s investigator had produced no evidence of extramarital activities. I needed Birdwine.

My stomach rumbled and I checked my watch. The tacos had been hours ago. If Birdwine was on a case—or if he was on a bender—he could be gone for days. So be it. I could walk down to the mom-n-pop on the corner and get a protein bar. I’d grab a rawhide chew for Birdwine’s big-ass mastiff, too, while I was at it. Looper had a dog door to get in and out, and an automatic feeder dropped his dinner every afternoon, but he’d appreciate the thought. I’d sit here all night, if I had to. I had less than three weeks before the Skopes deposition, and I needed Birdwine on it, ASAP. If only he were speaking to me, I could hire him to find himself for me.

I heard a knuckle-rap on the glass right by my head, and I jumped. I peered out to see Birdwine’s old brown leather bomber jacket and his Levi’s. I hit the button to crack the window. Birdwine was a natural mesomorph, built thick with a big, square head like Looper’s. He was tall, too, so he had to step back and bend down to see me.

I put one hand over my heart. I didn’t see you coming.

He shrugged as best he could, bent over. I’m good at sneaky. It’s in the job description.

He looked fit and clear-eyed. Wherever he had been all day, it hadn’t been a bar.

I need to talk to you.

You don’t say, he said, very dry.

I’m serious, Birdwine. Come on. Ten minutes.

Well, I’d invite you in, except I hate you, he said, but he smiled when he said it. It was his real smile, too, showing me the gap between his two front teeth.

It made me smile back, though I didn’t like the way he brought his hand up to press three fingers against his temple. I’d worked with Birdwine for almost nine years now, and I knew his signs. He’d been in AA for a decade, but it hadn’t taken. Not completely, anyway. Two or three times a year he’d drop down a boozy hole, vanishing for days.

I’d learned early to see a binge coming in his body language, in his speech, in the very air vibrating around him. His disappearing acts had never yet blown a case for me, and if they ever did, it would be on me. I knew his limits. I risked hiring him anyway, because when he was sober? No one could touch him. If there was a speck of dirt, Birdwine could find it, and I believed Bryan Skopes was hiding a whole tillable field of loamy sex-grime.

I said, Climb in here, then. Promise it won’t take long.

I rolled up my window and hit the unlock button for the doors. While Birdwine walked around to the passenger side, I tossed my briefcase in the back so he could sit. A blast of winter wind pushed all the heat out of the car, leaving me shivering as Birdwine folded his big body and jammed it in beside me. He started messing with the seat controls, scrolling backward, and his face looked like he was readying himself for a root canal.

I had a file on Skopes tucked in my door’s side pocket, and I passed it over to him. His eyebrows puzzled up. He flipped through a couple of pages before turning to me. He had heavy-lidded eyes, large and very dark, the kind that always looked a little sleepy. Now he slow-blinked them, not quite an eye roll, but it spoke volumes.

This is about a job?

Yes, I said. What else?

He started chuckling then. I don’t know, Paula. Look at these emails. He shifted his big body forward and fished his phone out of his back pocket. He tapped the screen and scrolled through his trash folder. Here we go. This one is titled ‘Birdwine, we have to meet.’ And here is one titled ‘I NEED you to call me.’ ‘Need’ is in all caps, by the way.

Oh. I see what you mean, I said. I hadn’t thought about the context when I’d typed those phrases. I’d written the truth, without thinking how it might read to an ex-lover. You thought I wanted a relationship postmortem?

Yeah. What was I supposed to think? he said.

Ironic, really. He’d ended it because we couldn’t talk, but this week he’d ignored every attempt at contact, thinking I wanted to sit down on floor cushions and light up friendship-scented incense and process our breakup over a cup of organic oolong. This from the guy who played his cards so close that when he’d ditched me, I was caught off guard; I hadn’t known we were officially a couple.

I’d thought we were one-stop shopping. We worked together often, and once, after a bad night, we’d fallen into bed together. I liked the way his big hands caught in my long tumble of shaggy black hair, liked his deep rumble of a voice. He was good, rough trade, with a hairline scar cutting through one eyebrow and a long nose that had been broken more than once. I liked its complicated, crooked path.

Once we started, we kept coming back to it. I was built tall and athletic, but his body was huge—a thick-armed, beastly thing. He could toss me to the bed like I was made of air and ribbons. It was unfamiliar and exciting, to be bent and twisted into shapes, lifted, hurled around. The sex was often my favorite kind, blunt and urgent, but then it could turn languorous, too. We’d stretch time until the sex felt almost sleepy, right up until the end. Then it wasn’t, and we’d tip each other into animal oblivion.

For months, we wore each other out nearly every afternoon. At his place, mostly. He didn’t like my loft. It was all open concept, with a back wall made entirely of windows facing Atlanta’s ever-rising skyline. He was the kind of guy who went right to a corner seat at any restaurant. He couldn’t eat if his back was to the door. My place felt way too exposed, and the only interior walls were around the two bathrooms and the laundry. My cat had the run of it, and that creeped Birdwine out. He didn’t like to look up and see Henry perched on the dresser like a fluffy white ghost, watching us and purring to himself. Birdwine was a dog guy.

So we’d come here. We’d close the door on Looper and have what I thought was convenience sex. Finest kind, yeah, but we didn’t snuggle up after for sharing time. We had the broad strokes of each other’s histories already anyway, from working together for so long. Our post-sex pillow talk was about the Braves’ chances or the angles of a current case or where my bra had gone.

I was surprised when he ended it, then shocked when he also turned down every job I offered. Then he stopped taking my calls altogether. I’d backed off, giving him room to cool down. He hadn’t cooled yet, going on six months later. So here we were.

I said, I’m not a thirteen-year-old girl with a crack in my heart, Birdwine. We had a thing. It stopped working for you. Fine. I still respect the hell out of your work. I still want to hire you. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

In your metaphor, this is the baby? He tapped the Skopes file. I nodded and he said, I forgot what a hopeless romantic you are. His tone was still light, but one hand came up to scrub at his eyes: another bad sign. Why didn’t you title the email, ‘Job for you’ or ‘Can you find this guy,’ or hell, just the guy’s DOB and Social.

I was wondering the same damn thing. It wasn’t like me; I was fine-tuned for connotation. But I matched his light tone and said only, Well, next time you avoid me for months, I’ll know how to proceed.

He chuckled. I’m still avoiding you, Paula. There has been no break in my avoidance. You’re the one slumming it in my neighborhood. He paused, then added, very drolly, Hey, look! This is becoming a relationship postmortem, after all. Neat.

So take the job, and I’ll get out of your hair. He didn’t answer, but I couldn’t let it go. Birdwine wasn’t replaceable. Finally I said, What if I double your rate?

That got his attention. Birdwine lived pretty strapped. He put a long, level gaze on me and said, Will you stop with the muffins and the urgent, breathy letters?

Absolutely, I said.

Actually, send muffins anytime you want. I got no problem with muffins. But you need to stay on your side of town. Have one of your minions email me the files, and use a reasonable title, like ‘Here is a case for you.’ I’ll send you my results back in an email titled ‘Here are my results.’ How does that sound?

Shitty and untenable in the long term, actually, but I said, If that’s what it takes to get you back on my team, which was the truth. Just not the whole truth.

I couldn’t work with Birdwine at a distance. Not indefinitely. I needed to see him on the regular; his binges happened at random intervals, but the signs of an impending one were cumulative. Today, right now, he could be months from breaking. The eye-rubbing, the little taps at his temple, these could simply be the stress of this unpleasant conversation. He could go in the house and not eye-rub or tap or drink himself into ugly oblivion for weeks and weeks. On the other hand, if the signs repeated and intensified, they were harbingers of an imminent disappearance that could leave me stranded at my deposition.

Damn, but you’re pushy, lady. I’d forgotten that, too, he said, and now he was laughing outright. Okay. All right. Let’s get this clear—I’m not on your team. I’m doing a job for you because you’re paying me a stupid amount of money.

Good enough, I said. It was a foot back in his doorway, and once I had a foot in, well, he was right. I was pretty damn pushy.

I take it you need a fast turnaround? Birdwine asked.

His hand, resting flat on the folder, almost covered it. Outside of his physical presence, it was easy to forget how large the gods had framed him: big hands, big feet, long thick thigh bones, massive wrists.

I have to depo this guy on the twenty-fourth. Right now, I have zero leverage.

How low can I go? Birdwine asked, limbo style.

Low as you like, I said. This is a straight-up BANK case.

BANK was my acronym, and it stood for both assholes, no kids. BANKs were the best. They were lucrative, and I could fight as dirty as I liked without helpless teenagers or toddlers wandering into the crossfire. When there were kids, or if the client was a dear and tender soul, I had to move carefully, try to minimize the damage.

Excellent, Birdwine said. He liked low roads just fine, but he shared my soft spot for little pawns caught sideways in divorce. It was another reason we worked so well together. What am I looking for?

Sex, I said, with certainty.

Before I met Bryan Skopes, I knew just by looking at his file that he had more than earned the A in BANK. Sure, he was in the Rotary Club, and he served on the finance committee at his church. He made sure his aging father was well cared for. He no doubt thought of himself as a good person. Most people do.

But his first wife got no alimony and her child support was a pittance, though she was raising the two daughters he rarely saw. His second wife was fifteen years his junior. She’d worked for him as a receptionist, which further weighted the relationship. I didn’t see a good person. I saw a narcissist with a sex-and-power complex fueled by a genuine disdain for women.

Meeting Skopes in the flesh had both confirmed and lowered my opinion. The stealthy look I’d clocked him running over me—it wasn’t like a hungry man with empty pockets gazing at a buffet with no hope of more than a whiff. This had been the eye-flick of a sated gourmand, one who was getting well fed on the regular. That glance had been insulting, but not for having sex in it. It was insulting because he clearly felt entitled to it. He thought he had the upper hand in the negotiations, and that power differential turned him on more than my body. It made the righteous in his indignation ring false.

Our client was an asshole, too, no question. But even assholes deserve fair representation, especially when up against an equal and opposing asshole. In this case, I’d lucked into the lesser of two evils. Daphne was still evil, just lesser. Sure, Bryan Skopes thought of women as commodities, and sure, he had bought Daphne. But to be fair, she’d consented. I couldn’t respect her; I didn’t like her; it didn’t matter. So she had sold herself—well, I was her lawyer. My job was to make Skopes finish paying for her.

You mean a mistress? Birdwine asked.

I shook my head. Don’t waste time hunting for a romantic meeting of true minds. Look lower—this guy has got the secret nasty oozing out his pores.

This was how we worked together; I found the weak spots, then I pointed Birdwine straight at them and shot him. Together we had many more hits than misses. If I was right, and if Birdwine could catch him, Skopes would have to dial down the accusing, wounded tone and bring something much more substantial than a car title to the table.

I’m on it. We done? Birdwine asked.

Yeah. Thanks, Birdwine, I said.

Please, call me Zachary. He gave me the close-lipped version of his smile, bland and insincere.

Heh, I see what you did there. When he first started working for me, he’d told me only his ex-wife called him by his first name, and she’d remarried ten minutes after their divorce was final. These days she was living down in Florida, too busy squeezing out babies and pretending he was dead to call him anything. I’ll stay out of your way. I didn’t add, for now.

He got out. I drove off to get some dinner, my worries about Skopes v. Skopes already fading. If Birdwine stayed sober, then this problem was already solved.

I wasn’t sure he would stay sober, though. I became less sure as days passed with no word. Still, I stayed cool. Skopes and his lawyer, Jeremy Anderson, had been playing the delay game for months now. I could delay right back until Birdwine came through or until I found another way to break Skopes.

On February fourteenth, I stayed late researching a tricky precedent. By the time I finished, it was past eleven. I closed my computer down and got out my checkbook. I wrote Cash on the line that said Pay to the order of. My mother’s legal name was Karen Vauss, but I had no idea what name Kai was floating in her current incarnation. I signed the check and ripped it from the book.

I put it in an envelope from my personal stationery—plush cream-colored paper with Paula Vauss and the address of my midtown loft engraved in dark burnt brown. I scrawled Kai’s PO box number in Austin on the front and sealed it.

I sent her a check on the fifteenth of every month, both a ritual and my only form of communication with my mother for a decade and a half now.

It was my way of asking, Are we square yet?

Cashing it was her answer: You still owe me.

I paused before I threw it in my outbox, even though I had plans to meet up with a guy I knew. We were going to hook up at precisely 12:01, once Valentine’s Day was safely over. Still, I lingered. I could let Verona send my paper proxy out with the rest of the mail, let it ask its monthly question, right on schedule. Or I could run it through the shredder.

I toyed with this choice every month. What would Kai do, if it simply didn’t come? Silence might settle in between us, and I’d know I’d finally paid enough for nailing her gypsy feet down, stealing almost a decade of her freedom. Silence sounded close enough to peace for me to let it count. Either that, or she’d show up on my doorstep, demanding to cut a pound of flesh out of my body.

Not for the first time, I wondered what would happen if I got more aggressive. What if I mailed Kai a note instead? I pulled a legal pad toward me, then sat staring at it. Minutes passed, and the paper stayed word free. I needed to go home and change and feed Henry before my date. By now he would be marching up and down the stairs from the great room to the lofted bedroom, impatient for his wet food, but still I sat there, staring down at the blank page.

Finally I closed my eyes and felt my hand begin to move the pen against the paper. I wrote out the essential question, blind: What will it take to make us square?

When I looked at the words, I could see they were too blunt, too bald. Worse, they admitted culpability. I scratched them out and wrote instead: You named your kid for Kali, so what the fuck did you expect? You got exactly what you asked for.

That sounded more like me, but it wasn’t at all mend-y. Well, making amends was not my forte; any fortes I had lay in the entirely opposite direction. I could break things in a thousand ways—anything from surgical dismantling as meticulous as bomb squad work to wrecking ball–style mass destruction. If I broke a thing, it stayed broke. If I broke one of my things, I lived with pieces or replaced it. I tore the page off and crumpled it up. I shot it at the wastebasket in the corner, and I nailed it for a cool three points. Screw it. I put the check in my outbox and, as always, setting it in motion was a relief. Kai was paid, so for a week or two, I could push her from my mind. Soon enough, she’d creep back in, making me feel faintly itchy until I wrote out her next check.

As I stood to go, I heard the ding of an email landing in my inbox. It was from Birdwine, titled just as he had promised: Here are my results. Safe bet he wasn’t asking me to be his valentine. What else was new? I sat back down and opened it. The body of the email said only, Yep, you called it. There were two attachments.

I opened the first and found a hefty, hefty bill. Heftier than I had expected. The next attachment was a PowerPoint file. I started clicking through the slides.

There was Bryan Skopes, seen from above, but still recognizable. He was good-looking in a blunt-faced, former frat boy way, but with too much scotch and too many fried oysters gathering in the paunches under his eyes and around his waist. He stood in a thicket of evergreen azaleas with a hollow heart. The bushes made a room that was well screened on all sides, but roofless.

The photos had been taken from above, and as far as I could tell, Birdwine had panthered his way very high up into a tree that overhung the thicket. He could have broken his neck, but he got the money shots: Bryan Skopes was not alone. A friend with magenta hair knelt in front of him, her face jammed between his legs. As the images progressed, his spine flexed back and his round, florid face tipped up. His mouth fell open, slack. His eyes were closed, or he might have made eye contact with Birdwine. I grinned at the thought; wouldn’t that have been so disconcerting?

Near the end, I came to a slide that made me stop clicking forward through this common, sordid story. In this shot, the girl was still on her knees, but she was looking up at Skopes. Her face was round and smooth, fat-cheeked as a baby’s, and the skin under her eyes was unlined and faintly pink. I felt a lemony trickle of something sour and sharp enter my blood. She was so young. Fifteen, maybe.

In the next slide, she was standing while Skopes packed himself away. In the next, their hands were touching, palm to palm as he passed her the money. The sour trickle in my blood became sharper and more acidic. So I was right twice: Skopes was cheating, and he liked his sex with an ugly power differential. This poor kid was so young and fresh she didn’t know to get paid first. Another month of street living will fix that, I thought, and for once, being right didn’t make me feel good.

I looked at her baby cheeks, her downturned mouth, and it was as if I knew her. Hell, I could have become her.

I knew girls who had become her, back when I was in foster care. Sometimes I still dreamed that I had fallen off the world with them. I would tip into sleep and find myself walking right off Earth’s secret, jagged edge. I would hurtle past the world turtle, past Joya who tumbled limp and silent, past Candace who reached for me with needy-greedy eyes. Past everything, into an endless nothing. Not even stars.

I could have ended up exactly

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  • (4/5)
    This was an interesting read. It feels rather light, reads quickly, and yet there is true substance in this novel. The author has created several interesting, fully realized characters; they really come to life. Even the peripheral characters are well done- Jackson can sum up a personality in a few crisp, biting sentences. The characters evolve, which is fun to read/watch.
    There are alternating chapters jumping from the present to the past as Jackson gradually reveals "the rest of the story"and I found this worked much better than a straight time-line narrative would have.
    Looking forward to reading more of Jackson's work!
  • (4/5)
    Joshilyn Jackson is one of my favorite authors, and her books keep getting better and better. Paula is a divorce lawyer who has had countless identities in the past, thanks to her mom, who lived wherever she could find a boyfriend. Paula has been sending her mother money every month to “make good” on something that happened in the past - and that’s been all the contact she’s had with her mother. When she finally gets something from her mother, it’s not what she expected, and she has to deal with her past catching up to her rich (literally) present.
  • (5/5)
    My third book of hers and I think it might be my favourite.
  • (3/5)
    I am a fan of Joshilyn Jackson's novels. They usually have that appeal of Southern dysfunctional families and often deal with tougher issues -- spousal abuse, unplanned pregnancies -- that give the book a little extra to make it stay with you. This story is about Paula, a tough, kick-ass divorce lawyer, who grew up in a difficult family situation. Her mother is loving and devoted, but floats from relationship to relationship, and occasionally making bad choices that land her in jail. This book had many of the elements of what could make it good story, but Paula never jelled as a character for me. She's tough and brassy, but falls apart and has panic attacks. Her main love, is a private investigator who is equally confusing -- strong, warm, considerate, and capable, but falls apart and goes on alcoholic binges. I am not looking for perfect characters, but there triggers didn't seem significant enough to change Paula from super-hero lawyer, to panic-attack weeping woman in distress.I've read more recent books by this author that I really enjoyed, so I'm chalking this one up as a novel that just didn't resonate with me.
  • (4/5)
    (NOTE: I received a digital review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.)Paula Vauss was born in a juvenile detention center to her teenaged mother, Karen "Kai" Vauss. To say that Paula and Kai had a strange relationship is a major understatement. As an adult, Paula's relationship with her mother consists of sending a monthly check to her mother's postal box. Paula's life is thrown upside down when her last check is returned with a somewhat twisted karmic message in The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson.Paula Jane Vauss was named Kali Jai by her mother, but her maternal grandparents changed her name when completing her birth certificate. Paula knows her mother is a tad bit strange, but she has no idea about her paternity other than providing her skin color and somewhat distinctive eye-shape. Growing up with Kai was different, in that Paula never knew what their last names would be or what story her mother would create for their backstory. Paula doesn't hate her mother, but she's quite sure her mother is glad she's no longer an active part of her life. In an effort to pay off the guilt she feels for one childish act of anger, Paula has spent most of her adult life sending her mother money. After receiving a note with her last check stating that her mother is dying and no longer requires her money, Paula is somewhat relieved. That relief quickly turns to worry and, in turn, causes months of anxiety and panic attacks. The panic attacks lessen somewhat when she is confronted with a half-sibling she never knew about, a brother born while her mother was in prison and given up for adoption. Just as she's getting used to the idea of one half-sibling, she uncovers information that she may have another half-sibling. Where is this youngest sibling and where and when did Kai actually die? Can the lone wolf, diva lawyer become a loving and caring older sister? Does she even want to?If you follow most of my reviews, you know that I generally read a book in one day and sometimes in one sitting. Well, I flew through The Opposite of Everyone in one sitting over a span of just a few hours (yes, it was just that good). Ms. Jackson has a unique way of storytelling that grabbed this reader after only a few pages into the book and I reluctantly put it down only after reading the last page. I enjoyed the way Paula's story was told, with what can only be described as flashbacks to provide the backstory. Paula is a kick-ass diva lawyer and even that is spotlighted with a few cases throughout the story. She has a sort of, kind of, almost, maybe, not-quite love affair going on with her private investigator, Zachary Birdwine. All of the characters are distinctive, eccentric, and wholly believable, as well as relatable. Mixed into this tale of one woman's family and a search for love and forgiveness are the Hindu myths of Kali, Ganesh, and Hanuman. You wouldn't think a Southern fiction story mixed with Hindu myths would work, but Ms. Jackson doesn't just make it work, she has it make perfect sense. If you enjoy stories with quirky, flawed characters or are simply looking to read a great story, then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of The Opposite of Everyone. Did I enjoy The Opposite of Everyone? Yes, I did and I'll have to wait a few weeks before I read it again (told you, it is that good).
  • (4/5)
    Story of a lawyer who spent time in foster care and has a difficult relationship with her mother. Her life is told to us in the past and in the present. It held enough surprises to keep me interested but I felt it ended too abuptly, I would have prefered that the story continue and divulge a bit more on the siblings she did not know she had.
  • (4/5)
    Wow! I never thought I would love this book. But it's definitely a good book. I admire how Paula or Kali handle herself in each situation she faced. I know I'll never be as tough as her. I might fold like Candace but not as sneaky. So glad my book club choose this book for this month.
  • (5/5)
    Joshilyn Jackson has become one of my favorite authors. Her plots are unique and unpredictable, her characters are fully drawn and appealing, and her themes are ones to which I can relate. I read this in one sitting and enjoyed every minute. I recommend this one, as well as her other books, very highly.
  • (3/5)
    Joshilyn Jackson creates memorable stories and characters. I love her voice. I enjoyed getting know more about the strong character Paula whom we meet in her other book, Someone Else's Love Story. I did spend the beginning of the novel a bit angry that Paula felt obligated to her selfish mother. It takes a long time to get to know why, but it's a enjoyable ride.
  • (5/5)

    The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson is a very highly recommended novel about a tough lawyer and what made her so tough - her past.

    Paula Vauss was named Kali Jai after the Hindu god of change and destruction when she was born to her teenage mother, Kai (Karen), who was serving time in a juvenile detention center in Alabama. Her grandmother, who was going to care for Paula, was sure she heard "Paula Jane" so that is what was written on Paula's birth certificate. Paula grew up with her young free-spirited mother, who delighted in telling young Paula tales from Hindu mythology as the two aimlessly moved from town to town as Kai went from boyfriend to boyfriend. Kai taught Paula how to tell a story, and Paula uses that skill today.

    Now a tough divorce lawyer, Paula has been estranged from her mother for 15 years. The incident that changed their relationship and put a wedge between the closeness they once shared happened years ago, and Paula has been trying to make amends for her actions by sending her mother monthly checks for years. Now her mother has returned her check with a cryptic note written on it, saying that she is dying. Then, Paula, who has kept an emotional distance from others and refuses to form any attachments beyond the one to her cat, has a surprise literally come to her that will change her world.

    As the present day drama unfolds, Paula recounts her mother's stories and recalls memories from her past. All the barriers she's built around herself for protection may have to be torn down if what she suspects is true. And then there is her former lover, current private investigator, Birdwine. Does she really want a relationship with him again, beyond a professional connection, or is one even possible.

    I was totally engrossed in the story and the mysteries that drive the plot forward. Paula is a hard, tough-as-nails woman who has made herself that way because she believes it's what she needed to do to survive. She has major, glaring flaws and shortcomings in her personality and modus operandi, but I liked her. I wanted Paula to succeed in her personal life as well as in her profession. Ultimately this is a story of an unconventional family and forgiveness, and the power of mythology to transform the ordinary into something magical and compelling.

    As always, Jackson's writing is incredible - smart, funny, poignant. She describes scenes and characters with a seductive ease and charm that allows the plot to flow beautifully, propelling the story forward even if the scene or the truth about a character is hard or ugly. That is part of the sublime appeal of all of Jackson's novels. Her characters are real people, with flaws and big problems, but you care about these wounded souls. You will want what's best for them and for them to reach some measure of peace in the end.

    The Opposite of Everyone is good. Very, very good. It will grab you right at the start and you will be racing to the end to see what happens next. (I blame Jackson for some lost sleep last week.) Sure this is a stuck-overnight-at-the-airport book, but it's also a pull-it-out-and-read-at-every-opportunity book and a take-a-little-longer-lunchbreak book. I love everything Jackson has written and The Opposite of Everyone is no exception.

    Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins for review purposes.
  • (4/5)
    Joshilyn Jackson has become one of my favorite authors because for one she writes about real circumstances and real people. This is the fifth novel of hers that I have enjoyed and it is an emotional but tells a story of how tragic life can be for children in the Foster System. My heart broke as Miss Jackson wove her tale of her life as a child of a gypsy hippie who gave her daughter an unsettled life but love was always on the front burner.Love and family does prevail through tears. This is not Chick Lit or beach read but a must read.
  • (4/5)
    Enjoyed this book, but I enjoy all of her writing.
  • (4/5)
    Paula Vauss views breaking up families as her specialty. A divorce lawyer in her mid-30s, ever resistant to starting a family of her own, she continues to be plagued by guilt for the 911 call she made as a girl that led to a prison sentence for her mother on drug charges and her own stay in a home for girls. Although later reunited with her mother, their relationship was rocky after that, and she left home in her teens and hasn't spoken to her mother in yearsBut now a young man named Julian shows up at her office and reveals he is a younger brother she didn't even know she had. He was born while her mother was in prison and given up for adoption. Then comes a letter from her mother revealing she is dying of cancer and has another daughter, Hana, now 10. Paula finds she has a family, whether she wants one or not. But can she, of all people, find a way to locate Hana and bring it together?Joshilyn Jackson, the author of "The Opposite of Everyone," begins every chapter with Paula's reflections on her youth, when she could "measure the years of my childhood by my mother's boyfriends," and especially that terrible period spent in the orphanage. Clearly those years weigh heavily on her, and the feeling she's had all her life, that there is nobody else like her, persists. Yet she makes unexpected discoveries, not only the two siblings but also that Birdwine, her alcoholic boyfriend, is burdened by his own broken family and that even some of the girls she despised in that home have, like her, managed to make something of their lives. Rather than being the opposite of everyone, she is actually not so different after all. "There were more of us," Jackson writes. "The world was full of us, the leftovers and the leavers, the bereaved and the broken."Jackson weaves a powerful story offering hope that both broken families and those broken by families can be restored.
  • (5/5)
    Good storytelling about a fractured family forming connections. The story centers around Paula (Kali) Vauss, a strong female character, and is told with flashbacks to her unconventional childhood. There is a bit of humor and romance making for an appealing read.
  • (5/5)
    Two years ago I fell in love with Joshilyn Jackson's novel Someone Else's Love Story. The characters in her story were so realistic and you felt like you could be their friends. Shandi is a single mom with a young son who is a genius, and they become involved with William, a very smart man who likely has Asperger's syndrome.Jackson's newest book features a character from that novel, William's protective best friend Paula Vauss, who is openly hostile to Shandi and vows to keep her from him. It took a long time to completely understand Paula's motives in a brilliant twist ending to that novel.Now we see Paula's story in The Opposite of Everyone. She was born to a single mom, Kai, who loved to tell Paula (whom she calls Kali) stories from the Hindu religion. Kai's parents did not approve of her lifestyle, and free spirit Kai moved Paula from place to place and man to man, leaving each man when she tired of him.Paula spent time in the foster care system when her mother was arrested for drug possession. It was a difficult time in both of their lives, and Jackson does an amazing job describing the life in the group home where Paula spent a few years.Eventually Paula grows up and becomes a lawyer. She works for a firm that handles divorce cases, where she has a reputation as a shark. She also does a few pro bono cases each year, mostly for young women who grew up like she did.Paula has lost contact with her mother, but she sends her a check every month. She alludes to the fact that she owes this to her mother for something she did to her in the past, something we don't find out until midway through the story.Her most recent check is sent back to her with VOID written on it by her mother. This confuses Paula, and when a young man shows up looking for her mother, Paula gets her former boyfriend and private investigator Birdwine to help her find out where her mother is now.As Birdwine tracks Kai down, Paula learns something about her mother that makes finding her crucial. Her mother sent Paula clues in the form of a Hindu story, and Paula must crack the code to solve this important and life-changing mystery.No ones writes characters better than Joshilyn Jackson. Every character, from the major- Paula, Birdwine, Julian the young man seeking Paula's mother- to the minor- Shar her former foster care nemisis, Joya, her best friend in foster care, even Oakleigh, the supremely selfish divorce client- are well drawn and well-rounded characters. You want to know more about all of them.I was surprised that William was not in this novel at all, just a few passing glances, and even though I thought I would miss him, I did not. Paula has an entire world of her own here, and I loved being in her orbit.The Opposite of Everyone is the kind of book you get lost in, not realizing how long you have been reading until you look up and see that hours have passed. And then you fall right back in, determined to finish Paula's story and discover all the secrets within.I hope that sometime in the future, Joshilyn Jackson decides to pull a fascinating character out of this book (there are many to choose from) and gives us their story. I give The Opposite of Everyone my highest recommendation.
  • (5/5)
    I absolutely loved this book! I love an author that builds their characters into real life flawed and lovable people. Joshilyn Jackson did an amazing job with all of them. I was not ready for the book to end. I loved the way the story flows back and forth from present day to Paula's early life and how she became the woman of today. Great mother/ daughter conflict story. Definitely well worth the reading.
  • (5/5)
    The Opposite of Everyone is my introduction to Joshilyn Jackson's writing and I now look forward to reading more of her work. This novel has some of the best characters I have met in a long time, funny, flawed and fully dysfunctional. Well, maybe not fully but certainly well down that path.The gist of the story is in all the other reviews so I will skip that part. The writing is wonderful and will have you turning pages without even realizing it. As the story twists and turns you have moments of compassion for the characters you generally don't like and moments of disappointment in the characters you do. In other words, you engage them in much the same way you engage people in your own life, though hopefully with a bit less of the drama.I usually start mentioning who I would recommend this to but there aren't many people I wouldn't recommend it to. As long as you're a reader who enjoys a strong story with realistic well-rounded characters I think you will enjoy this. If this doesn't fall into a genre you normally read but are more interested in character driven stories than stories that rely on chases and explosions, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher.
  • (4/5)
    The craft of story-telling woven around a engaging story in itself, told with the skill and poignant eye of Joshilyn Jackson. Characters a bit more broken than usual, but every bit as engaging. Good writing, good reading.tags: 2016-read, a-favorite-author, great-title, i-liked-it, read, satisfying, set-in-the-south, thank-you-charleston-county-library, will-look-for-more-by-this-author
  • (5/5)
    Today, I was trying to read a book that I won and have to review. It was a struggle and finally I put it down and picked up this book and bam...read it straight through. That is how a book is suppose to behave, not feel like an undone chore. I loved this book and while I don't think I've read Joshilyn Jackson before, I do think I own several of her earlier books and I will be hunting them down pretty quick. Paula Vauss was born Kali Jai named by her hippie mother, Kai after a blue Hindu God. Since Kai has to go back into juvenile detention after the birth, her parents got temporary custody and put the name Paula Jane on the birth certificate. Paula's childhood is filled with her mother and her boyfriends and wanderings. Until the day that Paula decides to tell her own story and causes the separation between herself and her mother. This will color both of their future lives. Paula becomes the best and toughest divorce attorney in Atlanta and hasn't seen her mother in fifteen years. She has sent her a check for every month of those fifteen years until the last one comes back, uncashed with a note saying that she has cancer and will be going on a journey back to her beginning. The characters in this book are some of the most interesting that I've read about in quite awhile. It's not often you can read a story set in the South with large helpings of Hindu stories and enjoy every word of it. Highly recommended!
  • (5/5)
    This story definitely grew on me as the story progressed. The author was wonderful reading her own book.
  • (4/5)
    I'll be honest, it took me a little to warm up to this book. Paula is a kick ass lawyer, she takes no prisoners and wins huge settlements for her clients. Yet, she was not always so successful. When she was younger, she and her hippie style mother traveled, usually from one man to the next. Her mother was a great storyteller, mixing tales filled with Southern folklore mixed with Hindu beliefs. She always believed in her Mother's love though until she makes a serious mistake and it costs them both dearly.By books end I loved these characters, an investigator with a drinking problem, Birdwine, my favorite character in the beginning. A harsh look at time spent in a group home where some of the characters will resurface from the past and into Paula's present.. Also from past will come two secrets that will send Paula's world spiraling. How this all comes together is how awesome plots are executed.A very special knack of characterization this author certainly displays. Her characters are all identifiable and assessable, slices out of real life. So from a lukewarm beginning to a wonderful finish, such are the things good journeys and reading experiences contain. Easy to see why she has become a favorite of so many readers.ARC from publisher.
  • (2/5)
    This is the first book I have read by Joshyln Jackson. In all honesty, I thought this book was ridiculous. The storyline was all over the place and the characters were painfully over complex. This book was definitely not my cup of tea! I won my copy of The Opposite of Everyone from Library Thing.
  • (5/5)
    I just finished this book and I am still living with the characters, so I wanted to write this while it is this fresh. I need to go back and read it again. Now. I can't leave these people. This book has it all. It expresses love in ways that will wrench you to tears and back again. It expresses disappointment in the same way. There are parts that I did read more than once as I was reading, but only because the humor was worth repeating. I loved so many people in this book. I disliked a few also. But when all is said and done, it's the love that will last for me. I never go into details when I review a book because I can't. It's said that everyone reads a different book and I believe that. I can only tell you how I felt about it. Connected would be the best way to put it. This is one you will not want to miss, no matter who you are. There is something here for everyone. Read this book. Everyone needs to read this book.
  • (5/5)
    This novel is filled with deeply flawed but nevertheless likable characters who spend their lives running away, running to, running. They go by the names of who they want to be and by the names others want them to be.Paula Jane, aka Kali, has built up a near-impenetrable shell. Her mom was a delinquent teen kicked out by sourpuss, unrelenting parents, and who reinvented herself whenever the need or the whim arose. So, of course, her daughter became a divorce lawyer involved in especially ugly cases.This book starts funny, and it has humor throughout, but it turned serious fast. My heart broke for some of the sad, lost children – the girl in the azaleas, and annoying, sneaky Candace among others.The story alternates between young and adult Kali, and the people in her life. It is touching and sweet and cruel and redeeming, and altogether a wonderful story about family, even the broken ones.
  • (5/5)
    Whether you are a first timer or an avid fan of sassy, Joshilyn Jackson (I happen to be the latter, having read all her books), you can expect several things: Southern, witty, dysfunctional, emotional, out-of-the box, strong characterization and an unstoppable female main character. Jackson never fails to tackle and deliver highly-charged topics, infused with enough wit, sarcasm, and humor, to balance the dark heavy themes. "No one does Southern better." THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE, Jackson’s seventh novel--delves into the life of Paula Vauss, the gal we met in Someone Else’s Love Story (highly recommend). Jackson crosses from Southern Gothic into Hindu mythology-- life of a hippie, going inside foster care, and the prison system—strong emotions, and Jackson’s own unique trademark style. Where one woman finds the "opposite of everyone" may not be the way to live, after all. As Jackson mentions in an online interview… A Conversation with Joshilyn Jackson Art Atlanta, Paula deserved a story of her own. Readers, here you have it -- and hopefully more to come from Paula! Paula is now a successful divorce attorney living in a posh midtown condo in Atlanta. She is ruthless, smart, and witty. She has an ex-boyfriend and former lover (now a PI)— alcoholic Zach Birdwine; she likes to stalk and flirt with him as much as possible. He is best at what he does and she needs him to work a case for her. However, with the hundreds of emails she sends him, it is difficult for him to wade through them to realize she needs him for a case—not for something more. When she offers to pay him more for a case, he agrees. Paula has not had an easy life. Her childhood was rocky. She tries to put it out of her mind, most of the time until she writes her monthly check. She grew up with a woman, her mother, Kai; a free-spirited hippie type, quirky, a non-conformist, liberal counterculture, who went from one man to another, one town to another---telling all sorts of stories. (foreign to Kai’s parents). Kai wound up in prison, and each time she was released, Paula would fit her personality to revolve around her mothers. Re-invention time. Since many hippies of this time rejected mainstream organized religion in favor of a more personal spiritual experience, often drawing on indigenous and folk beliefs. If they adhered to mainstream faiths, hippies were likely to embrace Buddhism, Unitarian, Hinduism or Christianity - the Jesus Movement. As well as free love, and drugs. Kai followed the path, and Paula along for the ride. When Paula was eleven, something happened which would change the course of their lives—landing her mother, Kai in prison, and herself in foster care and group homes for years to come. Readers hear about the intense life and challenges inside the foster system, as well as prison. As the story opens, Paula is finally connecting with Zach. (this part is hilarious). She needs his help with a case (plus wants more). Each year, Paul writes a check to her estranged mother, to ease her guilt. Paula hasn’t seen her mother for fifteen years. Her mom always cashes it and life moves on to the next month. This time, it is returned with a note. The red flag goes up and Paula knows something is not right. Shortly thereafter, Julian shows up and knows about her mom. What do they have in common? Her past life comes to the surface, and readers learn the secrets, fears, horrors of the past.What is going on with her mother? Karma. She has to crack the clues of the mystery. From her divorce cases, to her half sibling, and the mysteries of her mom---an intense emotional journey. The Opposite of Everyone is about family--they are fragile. How they fall apart, memories, stories, and how they connect, shape and define our lives. You are going to love Paula—she is flawed and fascinating with some great one liners!Even though we hear from Kai, Paula carries the story—it is her story to tell. Paula fights for the underdog and even takes on pro bona cases to help other women. She is loyal. She has baggage. Those flaws provide her with plenty of insight to help others who cannot help themselves. First time or long time fans, you are going to love this one. If you enjoy the intense yet fragile mother-daughter relationships, topics of prison and foster care; recommend Amy Hatvany’s Somewhere Out There. Sometimes one mistake can alter our lives in so many ways with consequences. The ghosts of the past can define us---they can pull you down, destroy, or make us stronger. Powerful!A Southerner myself, living in Atlanta (Midtown & Buckhead) throughout my media career, enjoy revisiting the area through Jackson’s storytelling. As always, I choose to listen via audio, since Jackson narrates her own work, which is quite powerful ---as mentioned in my other reviews. Who else can deliver a performance better than the own author? Especially Jackson-- she has the "Southern thing" down.
  • (4/5)
    I’ve heard this author speak before, and the minute she opens her mouth, the whole room seems to light up and the audience finds itself charmed and entranced. Her books are the same way. You open the pages, and immediately fall in love with characters who are endearing, funny, sad, angry, hurt, yearning, and hopeful, but above all, absolutely real.The narrator is Paula Vauss, originally named Kali Jai by her hippy mother Kai. Kai was in jail for drug use when Paula was born, so Kali was renamed Paula by her grandmother, and by the time Kai got out of jail, the name had stuck. Paula and her mother lived a peripatetic life, leaving boyfriends and bad situations behind. Paula didn’t always want to leave, but with Kai, “boyfriends love is the light on a bug’s back end, flicking on and off a cross a lawn.” When the light went out, they had to leave. Paula rebelled, first by being as bad as she could be, and then proving she could be better than anyone expected. Now, at age 35, she is a lawyer with a top divorce firm in Atlanta.Paula hasn’t seen her mother for fifteen years, but she sends her a check every month, feeling that she ruined her mother’s life and she owes her, although in the beginning we don’t know exactly why she thinks this. The checks have been cashed regularly, but suddenly, after all this time, Paula gets back a voided check, with a note from Kai that she won’t be needing money anymore; she has cancer and will be dead soon.There are other changes in Paula’s life. She had been having an affair with her most talented private investigator, Zach Birdwine, but Zach broke it off. Paula admits she probably created that problem. She allows “I was the road . . . that was crawling with barbed wire and bears and dynamite, marked with huge signs that said THERE IS NOTHING FOR YOU HERE.” Paula still wants to use Birdwine's PI services though; she has worked with him for almost nine years, and knows there is no one better. Birdwine has his own demons though, and every once in a while goes on an alcoholic bender.In addition, a young man, Julian Bouchard, 23, who looks alarmingly like Paula, comes to see Paula and claims to be her half-brother. He wants help finding Kai, who he never knew, having been adopted as an infant. Paula asks Birdwine to help, and soon they find that there is someone else they need to take into account: yet another half-sibling - Hana May, aged ten. They all figure Kai might well be dead by now, but Paula wants to keep up the search to find Hana. Birdwine asks, if they can find her, what then? if you find her, what then after that? Paula thinks about it:“I found that I could not imagine an after. How could I? Hana was suspended in the now, like Schrödinger's cat. She was both alive and dead, safe and scared, hungry and well fed, sleeping easy and crying in the dark. … the need to find Hana had hit me like biology. It was that basic, and that unreasonable.”But it’s more than that too. Paula has spent her whole life desperate for forgiveness:"I’d wanted it so bad. I’d wanted Kai - or anyone, anyone who knew the worst in me - to say that I was still dear, and good, and worthy.”Birdwine is looking for forgiveness as well for the same reasons. Getting that redemption from Paula would mean a lot to him because she isn’t like everyone else:“. . . everyone on this shithole planet says a lot of pretty words to make themselves look good while they do awful things.” he said. “You’re the opposite.”Maybe finding Hana will be redemption for them both. So Paula and Birdwine, with Julian’s help, work together to find Hana and to find the end of the stories that have driven them all.Evaluation: I loved this book. Joshilyn Jackson has never yet disappointed me. She is an author who is so charming that her personality leaks into her books, no matter how varied they are. And that’s a good thing.
  • (4/5)
    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.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.
  • (4/5)
    This book is about opposites...opposite heroine that we know, opposite life, opposite family. Such a good read about someone so opposite of me, but the same.