McGhee puts her protagonist through agonizing suffering not dissimilar to that which Joyce Carol Oates sometimes puts hers through ... Unlike Oates’ typically Gothic bent, McGhee’s approach is optimistic and upbeat. Even though McGhee pays some attention to the nature of experiencing this kind of anguish in the digital age...the book is less a cultural commentary and more the story of an unconventional family trying to figure out a way forward after an unfathomable crisis ... Laudable for its heartfelt attempts to give 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.
Though Mallie is able to wrest herself away from a dour William T., the narrative isn't. McGhee weds herself unnecessarily to chapters alternating between Mallie and William T., despite his blandness. The character is difficult to enjoy because of his lack of definition outside of his relationship with Mallie. To get over obsessing with Mallie's unexpected recovery and subsequent flight, William T. develops a hobby; but these repetitive scenes read out-of-character ... repeated phrases...[make] the book's music skip like a scratched disc. The choice to have William T.'s moniker repeated each time he's mentioned by every character is further evidence of this. As is particularly true with the 'dark bird' motif, the recurring visuals become opaque with overuse. Finally, the narrative's efforts at suspense rely too heavily on the author withholding information. Consequently, the characters are unrealistically reticent ... the withholding of information—particularly in the opening third— exasperates a reader's patience. Despite these issues, The Opposite of Fate is a timely work and not only because abortion rights, even in instances of rape, are under national threat. The novel feels bleak in the ways one expects small communities across America to feel in our zeitgeist, the broken bonds of family and societal fallout leading to odd congealing of friendships where people find belonging and significance.
McGhee uses thoughtful language and rich, meditative imagery to paint a picture of one young woman facing a difficult new path ahead. This book pairs well with Christina McDonald’s The Night Olivia Fell (2019), a thriller version of a similar concept; Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light (2018) also explores the gray areas in abortion rights and women’s choices. Like its comparable titles, The Opposite of Fate is a prime book-group choice.