Review: Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Backseat SaintsRose 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 Fat 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.

BACKSEAT SAINTS will dazzle readers with a fresh and heartwrenching portrayal of the lengths a mother will go to right the wrongs she’s created, and how far a daughter will go to escape the demands of forgiveness. With the seed of a minor character from her popular best-seller, GODS IN ALABAMA, Jackson has built a whole new story full of her trademark sly wit, endearingly off-kilter characters, and utterly riveting plot twists.” – Goodreads

I’ve been slowly working my way through Joshilyn Jackson’s books over the last year and with Backseat Saints, I am most impressed. Backseat Saints portrays a woman in three incarnations: rough and tumble Rose Mae Lolley, sweet and obedient Ro Grandee, and running scared Ivy Rose Wheeler as she travels from an abusive, motherless childhood and adolescence in Alabama, to a passionate yet violent marriage in Texas, to a desperate escape and safe harbor across the country in California. Rose Mae Lolley was originally a minor player in Jackson’s Gods in Alabama until she was given new life in Backseat Saints, a novel about abuse, abandonment, redemption, finding one’s true self, and the mother/daughter dynamic.

Jackson imbues her characters with her trademark sass and wit despite the heavy subject matter at hand – perhaps making it easier for some of us to digest? She writes with a depth and richness that places the reader directly inside Rose’s world, lovingly shaping each scene and character to perfection. I adore the characters that Joshilyn Jackson creates, and I adored those in Backseat Saints as well. Old Mrs. Fancy – oooh, she was so dear! Each person’s personality was carved out of the pages like they were meant to be from the beginning of time.

The book as a whole was quite enjoyable, yet not quite the level of fantabulousness I had hoped for. I believe I had built it up in my mind far too much for it not to fall below my expectations… I do that with all of Jackson’s books, it seems. Or perhaps her writing is just… missing something. That vital “something” that gives the book that extra *sparky*… Regardless of this, Backseat Saints is a great read – and, I suspect, will be a great re-read, as well. Joshilyn Jackson remains an author of interest for me and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future. Her newest book, Someone Else’s Love Story: A Novel, is due out in November, 2013. Take a look below at a video of Jackson talking about Backseat Saints:

Joshilyn Jackson Speaks About Backseat Saints:

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