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The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

4.1 8
by Joshilyn Jackson

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Susan Rebecca White
“Part twisting suspense, part unflinching exploration of the world of abandoned and exploited girls...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.”
Sara Gruen
“Inevitable, surprising, and beautifully layered… I loved this book and you will also.”
“Jackson excels at weaving a wholly absorbing story with vivid characters… [she makes] some affecting points about the importance of the stories we tell to each other and to ourselves.”
RT Book Reviews (top pick) on THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE
“Beautifully written, fascinating and deep, The Opposite of Everyone is another must-read novel by Jackson... Jackson has done a phenomenal job of weaving the past with the present and unfolding the story layer after layer. This is a masterfully written tale that readers cannot put down.”
Elaine Lui
“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.”
New York Times Book Review on THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE
“The unconventional characters in Jackson’s books often provide thought-provoking studies of love and loyalty; this must-read also contemplates the transformative power of storytelling.”
Sarah Gruen
“Inevitable, surprising, and beautifully layered… I loved this book and you will also.”
“Jackson excels at weaving a wholly absorbing story with vivid characters… [she makes] some affecting points about the importance of the stories we tell to each other and to ourselves.”
Library Journal
★ 01/01/2016
Because Paula Vauss was born blue, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, her free-spirited mother, Kai, named her "Kali" after the blue-skinned Hindu goddess. But Kai still had three months left in a youth detention center when she gave birth, so "Paula" ended up on the birth certificate. This conflict between Kai's feckless, creative nature and Paula's wish to be "normal" plays out tragically, leaving mother and daughter estranged for years, until Paula, now a high-powered divorce lawyer known for digging up dirt and nailing greedy husbands for hefty settlements, receives word that her mother is terminally ill, perhaps already dead. The smart-ass, no holds-barred narration by whip-smart Paula/Kali with not infrequent but judiciously placed earthy language should please the many fans of Jackson's (Gods in Alabama; A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty) snappy writing style. VERDICT The story of how a hard-edged, biracial, self-sufficient divorce lawyer allows family and love back into her life after fiercely shielding herself from heartbreak for over 20 years is likely to join the author's six previous novels as a popular book club selection. [See Prepub Alert, 8/24/15.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-12-10
A tough divorce lawyer with a troubled past is forced to revisit her childhood when she discovers her estranged mother is probably dead and may have left another child behind. Paula Vauss was born to a free-spirited teen mother who nicknamed her Kali, after the Hindu goddess of change and destruction. The two traveled across the South, Paula's mother taking up with men who'd shelter her and her young daughter for a time, then growing restless and taking to the road again—a lifestyle that worked much better for a young child than for a preteen beginning to exist outside her mother's influence. When an ill-fated move lands mother and daughter with a low-level drug dealer, Paula makes a phone call that will change their lives forever and drive a wedge through their close, loving relationship. Years later, still trying to atone for that devastating act and make sense of her subsequent reinvention into a hardscrabble fighter who survived foster care, law school, and her mother's scathing silence, Paula discovers she may have siblings, including a young child who may be lost in the system. Traveling back through her memories, Paula looks for guidance from her itinerant childhood and the stories her mother told her, an odd combination of Hindu mysticism and Southern mythmaking: "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." She'll also have to re-evaluate her sense of self, since suddenly, rather than burning bridges, she may have to forgive herself enough to let others in and create deep connections. Jackson delivers another quirky, Southern-based, character-driven novel that combines exquisite writing, vivid personalities, and imaginative storylines while subtly contemplating race, romance, family, and self. A searing yet ultimately uplifting look at broken people who heal themselves and each other through forgiveness, love, and the power of stories.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. 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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The Opposite of Everyone 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Her debt is finally paid in full but I don’t think, that I what Kali really wanted. I think deep down inside Kali was missing her mother. Her mother was eccentric, she was one of kind and I think Kali knew that and although as odd as she was, Kali missed her mother, something that she didn’t want acknowledged. Kali is a successful divorce attorney who uses the services of Birdwire, a PI. Something had occurred between the two of them in the past which I needed to figure out because when Kali calls upon him to ask for his assistance in a current case, there is some hesitation on his end before he finally accepts the assignment. Was it business or pleasure that caused them to separate on bad note when they last parted? I enjoyed Barbwire’s character as I thought he was an individual with many flaws that completed him. His flaws made him who he was, a distinct individual, who was zealous and genuine. While the two of them were at the office, Julian arrives. Kali believes that Julian is a new client, looking for his birth mother. She is correct; he is looking for his birth mother who happens to be Kali’s mother. Surprise Kali, you are no longer an only child! Shocked and dumbfounded, Kali is lost for words until the stories start falling out of Julian’s and Kali’s mouths. These stories were wonderful and I loved this part of the novel as the two of them told stories throughout the novel of their childhood. As Kali reached back into her early days, you could feel the emotions and the energy in her stories as she unleashed them from inside. Her brother listens intensely as he wants to know everything about his mother and Kali wants to share what she can with her new sibling. Their stories were different as they had different childhoods, their mother had been locked away for such a short time, unbeknownst to them that they had siblings out in the world, and now they stand together hoping to reconnect. This story was just getting started, the pieces of their lives were just getting shared and they were beginning to connect with each other when I realized that there was more to this story – more twists and turns. Kali has to keep her client base up while dealing with her personal issues and this adds drama and excitement to this novel. I would have liked to known their mother, she sounds like quite a character. Her mother is one individual, whose life could definitely fill a novel.
KLRomo More than 1 year ago
This book is a genre kaleidoscope - a mystery, hiding inside a courtroom drama, hiding inside a domestic thriller, hiding inside a literary novel. The composite of these elements is what makes The Opposite of Everyone such a wonderful book. Paula Vauss is now a high-powered divorce attorney, whose specialty is ripping-up greedy soon-to-be ex-spouses in the courtroom, successfully winning huge awards for her rich and powerful clients. Her current persona is a far cry from the damaged girl who was her past. Paula’s identity has always been muddled, both literally and figuratively. She is a mixture of white, and black, and Asian, with arresting green eyes. Paula’s mother, Karen, was a wild child, who wanted nothing more than to leave her strict upbringing and emotionally void parents for the freedom of the road. Karen reimagined herself into a hippy love-child who was filled with the stories and customs of Hinduism, changing her name to Kai, and reinventing Paula as Kali Jai. After being released from juvenile detention, where Paula was born, Kai and Kali left everything traditional behind, and never looked back. Kai and Kali lived from boyfriend to boyfriend, place to place, constantly reinventing themselves for each new environment in which they found themselves. Paula was happy to mold herself into whatever daughter her mother wanted her to be, once even pretending to be Kai’s little sister for two years. I have become the me my mother has invented to match the her she’s made for Dwayne. The word mama is an odd shape in my mouth after spending two years as Kai’s orphaned baby sister. This new daughter-self pinches at me from the bottom up, like I’m wedged into my old shoes. But at the pivotal age of thirteen, Paula was weary of the constant upheaval in her life, and decided to take action. What happened next changed their lives forever, and caused Paula remorse and guilt felt for a lifetime. Most of the book takes place in the present, with Paula’s life as a divorce attorney. She’s tough and callous on the outside, but inside she knows she’s missing something – she has an emptiness that is never quite filled. Paula’s private investigator and sometimes love interest, Zachary Birdwine, gathers the information she needs to get her clients the best divorce settlements possible. And when Paula’s monthly check to her mother is returned-to-sender with a cryptic note, Birdwine is enlisted to investigate. Paula’s present collides with her past as she remembers the turmoil of being raised by a mother who always put a man first. But Paula decides she must now try to find the mother who broke her heart, all the while dealing with the irrational craziness of her wealthy clients. Paula’s search unravels new secrets from her childhood that shake her to her core. Will Paula unravel the hidden truth about her past? That was the journey itself in a nutshell – looking at the holes where we’d once been. I truly enjoyed the multiple themes running through the story. And as a mystery, this book wasn’t written in the hard-boiled-detective style, but with tender prose sometimes lyrical in its description of Paula’s inner conflicts, and her attempts to come to terms with the mistakes of her past. We touched softly in deference to all the ways that we were wounded, working around each other’s bruises and ruined places. For a good mystery/court-room-drama/domestic thriller with the heartfelt depictions of a damaged past, this book has Something
Honolulubelle More than 1 year ago
Favorite Quotes: “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.” My Review: 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't begin to explain how deeply this book touched me. Each of the characters were multi-dimensional and beautifully written. The dialogue, storyline and pace were all perfect. Can't recommend this book highly enough.
Itsme More than 1 year ago
As a long time fan of Joshilyn Jackson, I was thrilled to be selected to review this ARC copy of her new novel, The Opposite Of Everyone. Although I have not felt that any of her books hold a candle to her first, this was enjoyable overall. I would recommend it to others.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I struggled with The Opposite of Everyone. I have been a big fan of Joshilyn’s past books and raved about her to my book club. When asked to review The Opposite of Everyone I was so excited. I am not sure if it is the Hindu mythology, which I knew nothing about, or maybe it was just the mood I’ve been in lately. Joshilyn included many incredibly tough subjects into the pages of this book. There is the estranged relationship of a mother/daughter, an abandoned daughter, foster care, and some alcoholism. None of these are easy to write about. Yet, in this story they are handled realistically. They are not just mentioned and brushed over. They are taken into the story and made part of the character’s life. They also make the story a little hard to handle sometimes. Paula was an amazing character. She had so many strikes against her. She starts her life with her mother leaving her with unloving grandparents and then a life in the foster system. The fact that she make something of herself is wonderfully amazing. She becomes the tough as nails lawyer handling high profile divorces while making a ton of money. This was always her life goal and she managed to do it with hard work and determination. I loved Paula’s character. She is not a character that you will look back on and think awe, I wonder what else happen with her. She doesn’t evoke sympathy, she demands respect. The Opposite of Everything is not a book for everyone. It is not an easy read. While it was not the book for me, it certainly will be for many people. I recommend checking it out.
Yapjoco More than 1 year ago
Paula Vauss is a fierce divorce attorney who prides herself on her ability to win difficult settlements. She'd spent her formative years homeless, with her mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller. When Paula had enough of the lifestyle she reported Kai's boyfriend's growing operation to the police and both were put in jail. Overcome with guilt she distances herself from her mother. Now, she's finally heard from her mother, who is dying and she tries desperately to track her down with the help of Birdwine the ex-lover, alcoholic detective. I really enjoyed this story and thought it was very well written. It was both funny and sad, with likeable characters.
Buecherwurm161 More than 1 year ago
A Great Read. I won this Book in a giveaway and I was super excited about it. The description sounded very interesting and different from the usual books I am drawn too, so I immediately started reading, but it did take me a little bit to get into the storyline. However I liked the relatable and complex characters and the way the story unfolded, layer by layer, I could not put it down until I found out how it ended. This was my first book by Joshilyn Jackson, but I am pretty sure it won't be my last, she has a talent of drawing you in until the last page.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
As soon as I saw the author of this book I requested it. I didn't even care what it was about. That's how much I loved her book "Somebody Else's Love Story". So, I had no idea what I was in for when I sat down to read it, because I didn't even read the blurb. What a totally different book this one was. And I don't mean that in a bad way. Her first book was one of those that just stayed with you and had you wondering just whose love story was it anyway. This one had you wondering why Kali's mother had to go through a journey before (oops all I can say without a spoiler). Both books left you reflecting and thinking and stayed with you long after I had read them. I would do the same with the next Joshilyn Jackson book. She could write the dictionary and I would read it. Her stories are so good and her characters are so well developed that you really feel like you know them or really want to know them personally. This was a wonderful book that I highly recommend. I'd like to thank Harper Collins/William Morrow for pulling my name out of a hat and allowing me to win this fantastic book. I literally jumped for joy when I got it in the mail as my request was denied on Net Galley. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I cried at the end.