Shandi grew up pulled between her Christian mother and her Jewish father. They divorced very acrimoniously when she was young and she has spent her entire life trying not to choose one of them over the other, not one parent, not one religion, not one anything. She lives with her mother, who has no use at all for men after her debacle of a marriage. But Shandi is not so sheltered from the male of the species, turning up pregnant her senior year in high school despite still being a virgin, as certified by a doctor. Her baby, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo, is a boy. Even her long time best friend, Walcott is a boy. And now Shandi's moving out and into a condo in Atlanta offered up by her father and her ice-queen of a stepmother so that Natty, who is a genius, can attend a better preschool than is available to him in the mountains, and so she is closer to school as she works towards her degree. But moving isn't the only big change in her life, it precipitates massive change on all fronts, starting with being held up at the gas station on the way to the condo.
While Shandi sees William as her savior, a beautiful older man willing to sacrifice himself for her child, William sees his actions in an entirely different light. Only partially hearing the news report on the hold-up, Shandi learns that the robbery is the one year anniversary of a terrible accident that shattered William's life. Knowing he is without family, she swoops in to care for him, determined to make him fall in love with her despite the instant antagonism she feels toward his glamorous best friend Paula, the woman who has seen William desperately in love with his wife Bridget and daughter Twyla, and who is intent on telling Shandi that his kindness and caring towards her is not love. But in addition to making him fall in love with her, Shandi also wants his help in locating Natty's father. William Ashe is clearly a brilliant man who also happens to be a geneticist and could in fact solve the mystery of Natty's father. William Ashe is also somewhere on the autism spectrum. And that last fact explains better how he saw what happened in that gas station. Yes, he was protecting Natty, but he also figured that he was staring down a date with destiny in the form of a gun barrel. He was fully prepared and willing to die, not for Shandi or her son, but because it was a choice he wanted to make, an option he would have embraced.
It takes a long time for Shandi to come to understand William and who he really is in truth, not just as the blond god Thor of her imagining. But it takes an equally long time for her to understand herself as well. Why does she want to find Natty's father and punish him? Why is she so determined to find love with William? The miracle here isn't that Shandi has had a virgin birth, it is that she ultimately makes the sacrifice that will lead all of the characters in the novel to the right ending, to the love stories in which each of them belong, that she and sweet, giving William, find a way to make their own miracles.
Jackson has written beautiful, emotionally damaged characters in Shandi and William. Secondary characters Walcott and Paula are amazing too, devoted and protective. The plot here is not the one a reader might expect of a love story but it is so carefully and lovingly written that by the end, it is the only narrative imaginable. Your heart will weep for William and you will sympathize with Shandi and you will spend a lot of time rooting for them to find happiness. The novel beautifully shows the possibilities that bloom even in the ashes of a tragedy. It is a delightful and heartwarming read.
website, her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.