The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

The Opposite of Everyone: A Novel

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 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

Sarah Gruen

Inevitable, surprising, and beautifully layered… I loved this book and you will also.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062105691
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/11/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Customer Reviews