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This week, I read the book The Opposite of Fate, by Alison McGhee for the 2020 reading challenge that I am participating in. This is the second book that I am reading for the reading challenge. The first was The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri, and you can find the review here.
Title: The Opposite of Fate
Author: Alison McGhee
Star Rating: 4/5
I give this book 4 stars out of a possible 5 stars. It has an excellent premise with good character development. However, I felt that the reading was a bit slow and at times a bit boring, as well as a bit rough in some parts.
What It’s About
The Opposite of Fate starts out nice and slow, which is fitting considering that the central character has just woken up from a coma. The character’s name is Mallie. She wakes up to find that nearly her entire support network has disintegrated during the 18 months that she was “sleeping.” The only person who is at the hospital, waiting for her to wake up, is an older friend and father figure, William T. Her mother had died of cancer, her long term boyfriend had left to start over in another state, and her younger brother had left for college.
Mallie wakes up from her coma, completely unaware of the events that had transpired. When she finds out that she had had a baby while she was comatose, she leaves her town with nothing more than an old car, her cell phone, and a box filled with newspaper clippings and old memories. She heads for another city in another state. She heads for the one person who once cared about her and was her rock.
While this journey takes place, the people around her struggle to make sense with and overcome the events that have transpired. The first is William T, who advocated for terminating the pregnancy, as it was a reminder of the night that Mallie was attacked, raped, and left for dead. The second is her younger brother, Charlie, who left for college to try to escape what happened as he still blames himself for the incident. The third is her boyfriend Zach, who stayed through the end of the pregnancy, but then left without any explanation. The fourth is the perpetrator of the rape, who has been tormented by guilt of what happened that night and still hasn’t told anyone, not even his mother and his baby sister, what happened.
The book is primarily told from the point of views of Mallie and William T. One character is completely in the dark, having no idea what happened since the night of the incident. The other character knows what happened after, but then is taken for a surprise with a shocking revelation at the end of the book. Intricately weaving their stories back and forth, the book slowly reveals what happened since and most importantly how all the characters are dealing with the aftermath of the situation.
Why You Should Read
The Opposite of Fate is an analysis of what happens after a traumatic event such as a rape. Who gets to decide what happens to the pregnancy, particularly when the woman literally has no say? In that case, who has the right to say what should happen? Should the pregnancy be terminated, because it was a result of such a violent act? Or should they let the fetus grow inside the comatose woman, because it is a potential person? Whatever they ultimately decide, this book is about choices.
This book examines the ramification of choice and what happens when society takes that from you. In the book, Mallie had her right to decide what she wanted to do with the pregnancy revoked. There was a huge debate all across her city, and even the nation, as people from her mom to her father figure fought against each other, as both had differing opinions on how the pregnancy should be dealt with. The choice was taken from Mallie. Later, she has to learn to deal with the consequences of a choice that she never made.
Along the way of Mallie’s cross county journey to her old boyfriend Zach, she starts to adjust and accept the consequences of that choice. One important theme that this book highlights is that no matter what bad thing happens that is out of our control we must learn to live with it. We must fight the bad, and the darkness, by being bigger than it.
The darkness that haunts Mallie is what happened during the night of the incident. Indeed, Mallie refers to the perpetrator of the rape as Darkness. There is not a lot of detail as to what happened and why, but that is fitting, because this book is more about the consequences of a bad choice and not the actual event itself. Mallie imagines Darkness to be a normal man who is tormented by the incident, constantly questioning whether he should turn himself in. I like that Darkness is portrayed as an average, everyday man, showing that good people can make bad choices.
People make choices everyday, some good and some bad. Another theme that this book examines is that children are certainly affected by the choices that adults make, but they are not their parents. This is particularly relevant in the case of Mallie and her younger brother, whose Mom joins a cult-like church and from then on starts to be heavily influenced by the church. It is also relevant in Mallie’s unborn child, who was conceived out of rape and violence. If the pregnancy is allowed to proceed, would it be just like the biological father? Or, would it be able to rise above that, creating good from evil?
Influences are central in this book, particularly by those who may share none of our blood. This book examines that you don’t have to have the same blood to love someone. This is true in William T., who has looked after Mallie and her brother as his own kids even though he isn’t their biological father. This is also true in William T’s love for his wife or Mallie’s love for her boyfriend. But whether we share the same blood or not, we must create a strong support network in order to heal, grow, and eventually thrive.
Overall, this is a solid book about not just the choices that we make, but how these choices affect us, the wider community, and ultimately how we must live with these choices. It is a book about pain, loss, and ultimately finding the courage to heal. It is how we deal with the choices that are made that determines who we really are.
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What book are you currently reading? I just may add it to my TBR list!