The Opposite of Fate

Who gets to choose? When a young woman emerges from a lengthy coma-like state she must face the decisions that were made about her body—without her consent—in this powerful novel of reclamation and hope.

Twenty-one-year-old Mallie Williams—scrappy, headstrong, and wise beyond her years—has just landed on her feet following a tumultuous youth when the unthinkable happens: she is violently assaulted. The crime leaves her comatose, surrounded by friends and family who are hoping against hopes for a full recovery.

But soon Mallie's small community finds themselves divided. The rape has left Mallie pregnant, and while some friends are convinced that she would never keep the pregnancy, others are sure that a baby would be the only good thing to come out of all of this pain. Who gets to decide? How much power, in the end, do we have over our own bodies? Mallie, her family, and her town find themselves at the center of a media storm, confronting questions nobody should have to face. And when Mallie emerges from the fog, what will she think of the choices that were made on her behalf?

The Opposite of Fate is an intense and moving exploration of the decisions we make—and don’t make—that forever change the course of our lives.

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  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358172475

  • ISBN-10: 0358172470

  • Pages: 272

  • Price: $14.99

  • Publication Date: 02/18/2020

  • Carton Quantity: 24

Alison McGhee

Alison McGhee

ALISON MCGHEE's best-selling novel Shadow Baby was a Today Show Book Club pick, and her picture book for adults, Someday, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. She is the recipient of many fellowships and awards, has three grown children, and lives a semi-nomadic life in Minnesota and California.
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  • reviews

    One of Parade's "20 Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020" 

    One of Working Mother's "20 Most Anticipated Books of 2020"  

    One of Beyond the Bookends' "New Releases for Winter 2020"  

    One of She Reads' "7 Books About Strong Women"  

    One of Crime Reads' "9 Novels to Read in February"  

    Included on Mind Joggle's "February 2020 Reading List" 

    Included on Book Reporter's "New in Paperback" 


    "The Opposite of Fate dives deep into one of the more terrifying—and yet hopeful—questions of life. How do we choose when we don't know the right answer? Alison McGhee is a fearless writer, full of love for humanity and a tender touch with words. You'll love this book."  

    —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder 


    "The Opposite of Fate is a timely and piercing read, pushing us to think about choice, both in the abstract sense and in our everyday lives." 

    Bitch Media 


    “Alison McGhee’s The Opposite of Fate plunges fearlessly into the core of the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate…staggering…[McGhee] maneuvers the weight of this tight-rope topic with grace and unwavering symmetry…[The Opposite of Fate] teaches us that at the end of the day the story of our lives comes down to our choices. Even when we are dealt a bad hand, a hand beyond our control, the decision of how we carry on is still up to us. We always have the option to keep moving forward as best we can.”

    Paperback Paris 


    "Laudable...heartfelt...give[s] nuance to sweeping political questions...The Opposite of Fate rejects the idea of 'the flat rightness and wrongness of things' in favor of a fraught and human complexity." 

    Star Tribune 


    "The Opposite of Fate is an uplifting novel about the life-changing decisions we make and the way they shape our lives." 

    She Reads, "7 Books About Strong Women"  


    “Heartfelt…McGhee is interested in these characters regaining themselves, not the violence but the consequences. And she does it with her usual graceful writing and empathy for her character that makes the reader ache for all of them.” 

    Pioneer Press 


    "McGhee uses thoughtful language and rich, meditative imagery to paint a picture of one young woman facing a difficult new path ahead." 



     “This is, at its heart, a novel about family—including chosen family—autonomy, and identity…Thoughtful and moving.” 



    "McGhee raises an issue pertinent to women’s lives in general: Who has control of our bodies?" 

    Crime Reads, "9 Novels to Read in February"  


    "Humanizes the abortion issue in a way that is unexpected and heartening...The Opposite of Fate is a timely work." 



    "Alison McGhee’s The Opposite of Fate is, like everything she writes, as close to poetry as prose gets, full of metaphor and imagery and lyrical repetition. I was driven to turn page after page to find out what would happen—Would Mallie reassemble her life? What would “the whole truth” look like when it was pieced back together?—but I also wanted to slow down and savor each beautiful sentence, each image. The Opposite of Fate is a story about stories: the ones we tell ourselves in order to bear the unbearable, solve the unsolvable, and live." 

    —Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones 


     "Mallie Williams wakes from a year-long nightmarish sleep like a princess in a fairy-tale; but in Alison McGhee's novel, the princess takes control of her narrative and her future. The Opposite of Fate shows the ways in which imagination can sometimes save us. This is a powerful and beautiful book." 

    —Julie Schumacher, author of The Shakespeare Requirement 


     “The Opposite of Fate is a story for our times, for many of us who are concerned about the future of our bodies, afraid for a return to a place and time when women had no say over our reproductive rights, our ability to make decisions for ourselves and our livelihoods. This is a powerful book about family, love, faith and the will to survive.” 

    —Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Song Poet 


    "After a sexual assault left her comatose and pregnant, 21-year-old Mallie Williams lies in the hospital, unable to make a life-changing decision about her own body. With her loved ones in charge of making determining the baby’s fate, Mallie awakes to a new world and the chance to build a new life." 

    Parade, "Set Your Reading Lists! These Are the 20 Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020" 

    "The book is just so human...A beautiful and well-written novel." 

    —Steph's Story Space 

  • excerpts
    In the beginning, a girl lay in a hospital bed in a room with white walls and a single window. Her name was Mallie Williams. She was twenty-one years old. She lay there for many months, months in which people came and went from the white room. Had she been conscious, she would have recognized some of them, the ones she had known most of her life. William T. Jones, her neighbor up the road. Crystal Zielinski, his girlfriend and the owner of Crystal’s Diner. Charlie, her younger brother. Lucia, her mother. And Zach, her boyfriend. 


    Others, Mallie would not have known. The doctors and nurses in their scrubs and white coats, stethoscopes slung around their necks, noiseless shoes on their feet. The lawyers. The guardian ad litem. The members of Lucia’s church, who gathered around her bedside to pray. The young orderly with the yellow cap, gold earring dangling from his ear, who once a day entered the white room and pushed his mop around the tile floor until it gleamed. 


    Months went by. Most things remained the same in the white room. The doctors and nurses settled into routine and resignation and finally into the kind of watchful resentment that sometimes happens in the face of hope turned hopeless. Until they were banned from the room, William T. and Crystal and Charlie gathered daily around Mallie’s bed. So did her boyfriend, Zach. They tried hard, but in the end even Zach’s face changed from worry to anger and finally to resignation. 


    Outside the hospital, others also kept watch, protesters carrying signs, trying to sway the decisions of the people within the hospital’s doors. 


    In the quiet white room with the double-glazed window, Mallie lay silent and asleep and unaware of the debate and protests and media coverage swirling around her. By all appearances, she was also unaware of the complicated emotions that anguished the people who loved her, the ones who came and went from her bedside. Her dark hair grew long and silky. Her skin softened, its freckles and few lines smoothing and disappearing over time. These changes were small and subtle, noticeable only to the people close to her. 


    It was Mallie’s stomach that everyone noticed. Flat and muscled on the night she was admitted, her belly over time mounded itself and became the first thing anyone looked at when they walked into the white room. Such a small thing in the great scheme of the world: new life. But this particular new life was complicated. For a while, it was all anyone who knew her talked about. 





    Sixteen months later 


    William T. Jones 



    Dark birds. 


    That was the second thing Mallie said, when she began to talk again. Her eyes were open and looking toward the window of her room at St. John’s. 


    “Dark birds,” she whispered, and he quickly followed her gaze. Did her words mean her vision was unharmed, along with her ability to talk? Crows? Grackles? Starlings, maybe. But he saw nothing. Nothing but sky. 


    “I don’t see any birds, Mallie.” 


    Back and forth she turned her head on the pillow, trying to shake it, maybe. He was holding her hand. Her fingers were so smooth. She was young, only twenty-three, but still. This was what happened when you didn’t use your hands; all the roughness went away. Her hands were the hands of a baby, and he remembered her as a baby. He had been in his forties then, a neighbor helping out her widowed mother, Lucia. Over time, he had grown to be a father of sorts to Mallie and her younger brother, Charlie. 


    “Dark birds,” she whispered again. 


    Her soft fingers twitched in his. She was trying to tell him something, but what, he didn’t know. That was all right. She would find a way. All the long months of waiting, of watching, of hoping that her body would finally recover, had taught him something about time and the nature thereof. 


    What had she said first? 


    “William T.” 


    All his life he’d heard his name spoken, yelled, called out by familiar and unfamiliar voices, people who loved him and people who didn’t. But had he ever thought about his name until now? Had he ever felt his name as a physical thing, whispering into his body in the voice of someone he’d known since she was a child, someone he’d helped raise, someone he thought of as almost a daughter? 


    “William T.” 


    She knew who he was. She was saying his name. Welcome back to the world, Mallie. 




    When he got home that afternoon he waited on the porch for Crystal. It took her an hour after the diner closed to put it in order for the next day. When her headlights swept across the driveway he stood up. 






Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358172475

  • ISBN-10: 0358172470

  • Pages: 272

  • Price: $14.99

  • Publication Date: 02/18/2020

  • Carton Quantity: 24

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