I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
is an entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation,
and love. Although the story starts out a bit slowly, after
the third chapter, it takes off and soars, never descending.
Jackson noted, “A scene in the book before this, The
Almost Sisters, had a ninety-year-old woman saying, ‘you
can’t go around staring at the worst thing in your hand.
It is not a way to live.’ I knew then it was the plot
for the next book I was going to write. Also, I teach college
level courses at Georgia’s Facility for Women, a maximum-security
prison. One of my students has been there for thirty years
and will likely be paroled soon. She told me, ‘I have
done my time and am a changed person.’ She has almost
finished her AA college degree. Her worry is that an employer,
someone at her Church, or a friend, will look at her and see
that one act she had done all those years ago as defining
her. What she said knocked around with me, and it all came
together in this book.”
With secrets, lies, betrayals, and the sins of someone’s
youth, Jackson pits two women against each other. It begins
when a new neighbor, Angelica Roux, invites herself to a book
club. She takes over the book club and shifts the focus to
playing a scandalous version of “Never Have I Ever,”
a game of spilling secrets after drinking too much. Some think
the game is fun, some refuse to play and leave, while Amy
Whey realizes that Roux knows her darkest youthful secret.
Roux intends to blackmail Amy and tells her for the sum of
a quarter of a million dollars; she will quietly go away.
But Amy has no intention of giving her anything and tries
to beat Roux at her own game, hoping Roux has underestimated
her. Matching wits with her in an escalating war of hidden
pasts and unearthed secrets, Amy knows she will lose her family,
friends, and even her freedom, if she can’t beat Roux.
“I wrote Roux as moral, a terrible human being, a predator
who likes to intimidate and manipulate. She is an instigator
and provocateur. What I find interesting about her is that
she believes her narrative, and does not think she is a bad
guy. She has this innate ability to justify whatever she wants
to do. She baby steps into it. For example, you are happily
married and then decide to just have coffee with this interesting
guy at work, then just having lunch, and then six months later
you think how did that just happen?”
Amy has settled into an ordinary life and the simple pleasures
that come with it: teaching diving lessons, baking cookies
for new neighbors, and helping her best friend, Charlotte,
run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family:
her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old
stepdaughter, and her adorable infant son. She is a character
readers will root for despite her flaws. Contrast her with
Roux, a diabolical character who is nasty, calculating, smart,
devious, and takes pleasure in being cruel. Together they
play a cat and mouse game, and the mystery is who will come
out with a win.
“Amy was written as someone who wants to be a good person.
She is invested in her family, and they are the center of
her life. Independent, smart, disciplined, has some control
issues and a natural facility for lying, including to herself.
Amy is fierce, determined, warm, supportive, loving, and kind.”
This story has an exciting plot, great writing, unexpected
twists, and memorable characters. A word of warning, do not
plan on sleeping because this book is one that no one can