17349119The opening lines of Someone Else’s Love Story: A Novel reel the reader into the middle of the action: “I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K….”

Our first person narrator is Shandi Pierce, whose story unfolds as we wait, along with a few other customers, while someone is holding them hostage. Among the hostages are Shandi, William, Shandi’s three-year-old genius son Natty….and a few others. And outside the store is Shandi’s lifelong friend Walcott, whose destiny seems inexplicably entwined with hers, and who carries a secret love for her.

In alternating chapters, we learn about William’s tragic losses, and in flashbacks, we see what his love story looked like. We learn about Bridget, about how Paula fits into their story, and examine the strength of their connections to one another.

And as for Shandi’s story, a mystery and a miracle were forged four years before that she is now brave enough to explore. What will she discover with William’s help?

Are the connections forged on that hot summer day in Georgia some kind of destiny? Is William bound to be Shandi’s new great love, or is he part of someone else’s love story? And are the events that unfold afterwards a coincidence or more of the illusory destiny?

In Jackson’s captivating style, we become part of the story, joining with the characters as we learn more about them, seemingly walking alongside them. Some of the characters are more likeable than others. Paula, William’s friend, who seems to be some kind of bodyguard who tries to drive a wedge between Shandi and William, is not easy to like. But then suddenly she surprises us as we learn more about her.

This story of loss, second chances, and special friendships has so many layers that fold into one another until we see a completely different picture from the one we envisioned. A delightful weaving together of lives that Jackson fans are sure to love. Five stars.


backseat saints resizedRose Mae Lolley was a secondary character in Gods in Alabama, and since that book was told in Arlene Fleet’s voice, we don’t really know Rose Mae’s true story.

In Backseat Saints, we are gifted with the versions of Rose Mae. There is the little girl of eight, whose mother has walked out on her. A version that continues into high school. She is full of mouthiness and is a guy magnet. But she picks the bad ones.

As Ro, she is married to Thom Grandee, a mix of good and bad. Because we see so much of the abuse almost immediately, it is impossible to realize the good parts right away. The parts that keep Ro hooked.

But something else is stirring up inside Ro these days, beginning on the day she meets a Gypsy at the airport. It’s the pull of another journey: a journey to find her mother.

Ro’s journey (she has taken on another version now as Ivy Wheeler) carries her from Amarillo, Texas, to Chicago, and then to Fruiton, Alabama, where she grew up. Ultimately she arrives in Berkeley, California.

Will Rose Mae find her mother? And when she does, will she discover the truth of why her mother left? Or will she find something completely different under a blanket of untruths?

The ending of this story crept up on me and I didn’t see this version coming. I could have guessed, but the unfolding drama left me wanting so much more of these characters and their stories. And perhaps more from the characters who were not primary ones in this tale. At the end, I enjoyed reading the author’s truths about how she came to write these characters…and what might lie ahead. Five stars!