Someone Else’s Love Story
Read from my local library
Shandi Pierce is 21 and a single mother to her son Natty, a child genius. In order to give Natty a better start towards good schooling, Shandi is moving herself and Natty from her mother’s house to her father’s condo in the city of Atlanta. Her Catholic mother and Jewish father have been divorced for a long time and this is just one in a long list of things that has had Shandi struggling to placate her demanding mother. Her father is offering her the use of his city condo, which he occasionally sleeps in when on call at the hospital and to pay for Natty’s special pre-school. It will also be much closer for Shandi to attend college classes and the convenience and benefits cannot be denied.
On the day they are moving, Shandi and her son step inside a gas station for a second and become involved in a dramatic hold up by a desperate young man with a gun. When a tall, blonde stranger puts himself between the gunman and her son, Shandi falls just a little bit in love. What she sees is a man who committed an amazingly brave and self-sacrificing act. What happens in that gas station forces Shandi to wake up and recognise the truth of Natty’s conception and acknowledge that lying about it, to herself or to him, isn’t going to do any good.
What Shandi doesn’t realise is that William Ashe, the man who stepped in front of the gun, had his own reasons for doing so. He believed it was his destiny. It was a year to the day since his world had been torn apart and he’d been searching for meaning ever since and thought he’d found it staring at him down the barrel of a gun. When, in the aftermath, Shandi comes to visit him in hospital and asks for his help, it sets them both on a course of self-discovery and healing. But this is not your average love story.
I first heard about this book over at Shelleyrae’s blog and knew that I had to read it. My library had it on order so I added myself to the list and then waited until it came in. As with library requests, it never rains it pours – I had a bunch of stuff all come in at once but I pulled this one off the pile to read first because I was so keen.
Shandi was only 17 when she fell pregnant and she has steadfastly maintained the ‘immaculate conception’ façade ever since. Her best friend Wolcott and his two mothers know the truth but Shandi has refused to really examine too closely the events that led to her becoming pregnant. Natty is an incredibly intelligent child and having attended a small rural daycare, he’s well aware that many children have both a mother and a father whereas he does not. He’s begun asking questions and Shandi has fobbed him off with a few fableish type stories but she knows that sooner or later she’s going to have to tell him the truth. And when she finds herself held up at gunpoint with her life threatened, she realises the danger of her keeping secrets. Natty might never be able to get the answers he will one day need.
William Ashe was choosing a laundry detergent when the hold up began. One year ago to the day, William’s life changed forever and he has been struggling to cope ever since. Whereas Shandi sees his actions as heroic, William sees them as merely a fulfilment of his destiny. When the outcome isn’t exactly what he desired, William finds himself being looked after by Shandi as he recovers. She asks him to help her with his problem and being a scientist who thrives on evidence, facts and ritual, William agrees to undertake the task despite the disapproval of his long-time best friend (and Shandi’s long time friend, Wolcott). As William’s tragedy slowly unfolds for Shandi, she comes to realise that the love story she has stumbled into, isn’t her love story. William is unavailable in every sense of the word and things are more complicated than she could possibly realise.
I really enjoyed this book because even though it’s right there in the title, it gave me something much different to what I expected going in. There’s quite a lot in the story you can see coming but there’s also quite a lot that I didn’t see and some of that made for very interesting twists. William is a character on the spectrum and he’s portrayed in a very blunt and honest way. He’s had his issues, he had few friends in school and his relationship was certainly quite unconventional. In many books it would be a love story between William and Shandi but this one really takes a different path and at times it works really well. I’d have liked more between Shandi and Wolcott – I think that particular part of the story needed more fleshing out and stronger scenes between the two of them, especially after the hold up.
I can certainly understand Shandi’s reason and desire to refuse to acknowledge what happened and to choose to belief that Natty was a gift to her. She’s very young when she gets pregnant and a bit naive as well. However it’s not something that will work for the long term, especially if she wants to be able to answer Natty’s questions and face what happened to her and move on. The book took an interesting turn about Shandi’s story – I’ve seen a review criticising it for apologising for date rape but I’m not entirely sure I feel that way. There are many different circumstances under which things can happen and this is just another one. Like many other parts of the story, there are twists involving this part too and there’s no doubt some readers will feel it’s a cop out or that it makes light of a serious issue. However – doesn’t mean that things don’t sometimes happen this way. It doesn’t change what it’s called, but every scenario is different.
Book #337 of 2013