Jodie Taylor’s childhood is filled with loss, abuse, chronic disappointment, and an instinctive awareness that her desire for women will forever make her an outcast. At 18, she flees her home town in rural north Florida and arrives in racially charged Selma, Alabama in 1956 as a penniless fugitive. She finds work in a café that is frequented by racist nightriders and, with an eye on the door, she hunkers down behind a wall of lies and half-truths. Her self-imposed silence with the family she left behind is broken when a crisis sets Jodie on a backward journey. As she struggles to reconcile her past with the present, she begins the inward journey she must take to truly find her home.
Jodie Taylor, the protagonist of Pat Spears’ artfully rendered novel, It’s Not Like I Knew Her
, is the definition of hard-wired pluck and moxie, the personification of strength when it is most challenged by humanity’s weaknesses.
Though Jodie is a complex character, so very human in her intentions and failings, rooting for her comes as easily as reading the visually rich and thoughtful prose that Spears expertly unravels. For some writers, description, particularly when capturing place, results in phrases as two-dimensional as the letters from which they are built. However, Spears crafts three-dimensional settings, tangible landscapes and locations that hum in the reader’s ears while delighting the mind’s eye.
To say that Jodie’s story is one of resilience oversimplifies a compelling plotline. Jodie is a woman hell-bent on creating her place in the world, all the while aware that staking her claim requires learning where she can risk a moment to thrive when even the most innocent indiscretion could ruin her.
Despite the novel’s thematic gravity, which includes discrimination and alienation based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and poverty, Jodie has a sharp, sometimes irreverent tone that punctuates the tension in just the right places. The dialogue is effective throughout and Jodie’s is a voice that I would at once recognize and delight in hearing again.
Pat Spears’s second novel, It’s Not Like I Knew Her was released in July 2016 by Twisted Road Publications. Her debut novel, Dream Chaser, was released in 2014. She has twice received honorable mention in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition; first in 2013 for her story “Stranger At My Door” and again in 2015 for her story “Free Ride”. Her short stories have appeared in numerous journals, including the North American Review, Appalachian Heritage, Seven Hills Review, and Sinister Wisdom, and anthologies titled Law and Disorder from Main Street Rag, Bridges and Borders from Jane’s Stories Press and Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2012, and Walking the Edge, from Twisted Road Publications. Her short story “Whelping” was a finalist for the Rash Award and appears in the 2014 issue of Broad River Review. She is a sixth generation Floridian and lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
"Ultimately, It’s Not Like I Knew Her, delivers an unexpected and surprising gift. At first blush, the title might suggest the impossibility of ever really knowing anyone or even the futility in trying. But by the novel’s end, the title reveals itself as an invitation to realize that we don’t know beyond what our own lenses allow us to see. If we understand this, we might magnify those lenses, recognize ourselves in strangers, and perhaps finally know each other.” -- Midwest Book Review, Amanda Silva
"Spears has the wonderful ability to describe people, places and events so well that we feel we know them. While the character of Jodie won me over immediately, it is the prose that built her that kept me reading.
This is a book about resilience, humanity and learning how to achieve what at first seems to be impossible. Jodie learns when is the proper time to go after what she wants. Her irreverence helps to paint a picture of who she is as well as inject a bit of humor into her story. There is so much that I have not shared here but that is because I do not want to spoil anyone’s reading pleasure. I urge everyone to meet Jodie. I am sure that you will grow to love her as I have.” -- Amos Lassen
"Pat Spears grew up in north Florida, and the proof is in the details. In her capable literary hands, the humid heat feels hotter, the creek water seems cooler, and the RC colas are infinitely more refreshing. It’s not just a coming-of-age tale – it’s more like one young woman’s journey to find out where she belongs. What she discovers is that she belongs where she wants to be, and where the people she loves still love her back – not despite who she is, but because of it. Through Spears, Jodie doesn’t so much figure out she’s gay – she knew she was different since forever – rather, she learns how to really live being gay, and how to fit into a world she once thought beyond her reach. It’s a lesson worth learning again and again." --Tricia Booker, My Left Foot