Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Backseat Saints

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing, June 8, 2010
Advanced Reading Copy, 324 pages
ISBN-13: 9780446582346
Very Highly Recommended

Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.
My Thoughts:

As a long time fan and avid reader of Joshilyn Jackson's blog, I knew before even opening the cover of Backseat Saints that I was in for a good story. I knew this because Jackson is a great story teller. She has a quirky way with words, a gift of describing events that are sometimes horrifying, sometimes titillating, but always honest and truthful. Often she does this with an amazing twist of phrase. How Jackson manages to add hilarity in many of her descriptions while telling a serious story is a gift and gives her a truly unique voice. The subject matter is dark, a young woman who suffered abuse as a child subsequently marries a man who abuses her. She knows, even before the airport gypsy told her, that her husband, Thom, is going to end up killing her if she doesn't kill him first. Between the abuse and sex, as Jackson herself would note to younger members of her family, there's a lot of adult material so it's not for their eyes.

The basic story, an abused child becomes an abused woman and subsequently tries to leave her abuser, has been told before. Where Jackson shines is in the unique way she tells the story, in her descriptions, the insights she has her characters voice. I absolutely did not guess what would happen at the end. Without giving away any spoilers, I had a few minor problems with the novel: the gypsy was a stretch for me and I had a hard time understanding Rose's acceptance of the beatings, knowing the fight we see in her personality.
All in all, though, Backseat Saints is Very Highly Recommended.

Many thanks to Hachette Books and Henry Choi for providing me with this ARC.


Note: This was an ARC (advanced reading copy) so I'm not supposed to quote from it. Normally there is usually a first chapter of a book online that I can use for quotes under these circumstances (which doesn't hamper me because I try to limit quotes to the first 50 pages or so of a book), but, alas, not in this case. Since direct quotes are an important part of my reviews (they give you a good feel for the author's style), I'm going to include a few forewarning you that the quotes are from an ARC. And oh, please tell me that the last one made it into the book...

It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband. She may have been the first to say the words out loud, but she was only giving voice to a thing I'd been trying not to know for a long, long time. opening

I'd been pinned, limbs flailing helpless sideways, while he ran four fast punches down one side of my back. then he'd let me go and I'd slid down the wall into a heap and he'd say, "Lord, Ro, why do you push me like that?" pg 4

Thirty seconds after the front door shut, I was butt-up under the kitchen sink, digging my Pawpy's old .45 revolver out from the stack of rags behind my cleaning products. pg. 6

Ten minutes after she came into a place, Rose learned, was the best time to steal things.
Not to keep. It was more about moving things, getting objects to the place they most belonged. Rose had an eye, even then, for what went where. pg. 32

....a drunken barn cat could fart out better advice than I would expect to hear coming out of the other end of that man. pg. 141


Lisa said...

I want this one so bad! I need to request it from the library but I suddenly have fines and they won't let me request things until I go pay them. the nerve!

Lori L said...

How dare they!
I was so thrilled I had the opportunity to get an ARC of Backseat Saints. It is a book I would have tried to get a copy of anyway.