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Backseat Saints Hardcover – June 8, 2010
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*Starred Review* Jackson’s absorbing and rewarding fourth novel spotlights Rose Mae Lolly, a minor character from her popular debut, Gods in Alabama (2005). Rose is now living under the thumb of her abusive husband and his domineering father. A Gypsy in an airport who reads her tarot cards turns Rose’s life upside down when she tells Rose that if she doesn’t kill her husband, he will surely kill her. When Rose realizes that the Gypsy is in fact her mother, who abandoned her when Rose was eight and left her with her abusive father, she takes her advice, but accidentally shoots her beloved dog instead. Rose comes to believe that hope lies in finding Jim, the high-school football star who was the only boy who ever treated her well. As her search for Jim morphs into a bid to free herself of her past, Rose goes on a cross-country mission to escape her husband and find herself. Jackson peels back Rose’s hard edges and resignation to reveal a smart, earnest, brave, and surprisingly hopeful young woman who yearns to make a better life for herself. Rose’s salvation, when it comes, is positively breathtaking. --Kristine Huntley
"Backseat Saints will pull you in and won't let you out until the last page. Raw, tangy and funny, it is an enthralling peek into the secret sorority of mistreated women. Follow the journey of one courageous, witty woman who decides, I'm not going to take this anymore. I love reading about smart, flawed and ultimately wise women, like Rose Mae. " --Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE HELP
"Joshilyn Jackson dives into darker, deeper water in BACKSEAT SAINTS-- with all her readers firmly in tow. As always, a riveting read." --Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of THE LAST GIRLS and MRS. DARCY AND THE BLUE-EYED STRANGER
"BACKSEAT SAINTS is an unputdownable story about love, survival, and shedding the past. Rose Mae Lolly is tough, passionate, funny, and fierce, one hell of a heroine to guide us through one hell of an adventure. Any time Joshilyn Jackson is in the driver's seat, I'm along for the ride. --Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of THE YEAR OF FOG
"The arrival of a Joshilyn Jackson novel feels like the first perfect day in a favorite season and BACKSEAT SAINTS is no exception." --Laura Lippman, author of LIFE SENTENCES
"Readers everywhere will rejoice to be back in the land of gods in Alabama. BACKSEAT SAINTS is a heart-thrilling, can't-stop-reading book about the unique and unforgettable Rose Mae Lolley. I loved this novel." --Michael Lee West, author of MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT
"From the moment I began reading, I could not put this book down. Rose Mae is an enduring character with a fierce and unstoppable spirit. This is a beautifully written story about an important subject. Pass the word." --Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of THE LACE READER and THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES
"A sizzling chunk of Southern Gothic."―Gina Webb, The Altanta Journal-Constitution
"[Rose Mae's] journey pulses with fierce determination."―People (a "Great Escapes" pick)
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One night, just before high school graduation, Jim got into a car accident after a party and vanished. Left with nothing, Rose Mae left her father's home and Alabama altogether, determined to start a new life.
Now in her mid-twenties, she's got one -- as Ro Grandee, wife of Thom Grandee, son of a wealthy Texas family. On the surface, Ro seems like she's living the ideal. But behind closed doors, the truth is much darker. Thom is just as angry and violent as her father was, possibly even worse. Ro has all but forgotten what it feels like to live without painful bruises and mending bones.
Suddenly a chance encounter in an airport makes Ro see her situation crystal clear -- it's either Thom or her, not both, who can live. It's time to choose, and Ro chooses herself.
Yet as she quickly learns, it's not all that easy to completely change your life, especially when you've essentially been living some variation of it since childhood. Where do you go? How do you go about it? And worse, how to keep the man you know is capable of murder from ending it all?
As Ro transitions back into Rose Mae, she also realizes that she needs to address many of the issues that have haunted her throughout most of her life. What really happened the day her mother left? What really happened to Jim Beverly? The future depends upon her getting the answers.
Although some readers may find the ending a bit too convenient, Jackson writes an enjoyable novel with engaging characters, just as real as anyone we may know in our everyday lives.
In Backseat Saints, we are gifted with the versions of Rose Mae. There is the little girl of eight, whose mother has walked out on her. A version that continues into high school. She is full of mouthiness and is a guy magnet. But she picks the bad ones.
As Ro, she is married to Thom Grandee, a mix of good and bad. Because we see so much of the abuse almost immediately, it is impossible to realize the good parts right away. The parts that keep Ro hooked.
But something else is stirring up inside Ro these days, beginning on the day she meets a Gypsy at the airport. It's the pull of another journey: a journey to find her mother.
Ro's journey (she has taken on another version now as Ivy Wheeler) carries her from Amarillo, Texas, to Chicago, and then to Fruiton, Alabama, where she grew up. Ultimately she arrives in Berkeley, California.
Will Rose Mae find her mother? And when she does, will she discover the truth of why her mother left? Or will she find something completely different under a blanket of untruths?
The ending of this story crept up on me and I didn't see this version coming. I could have guessed, but the unfolding drama left me wanting so much more of these characters and their stories. And perhaps more from the characters who were not primary ones in this tale. At the end, I enjoyed reading the author's truths about how she came to write these characters...and what might lie ahead. Five stars!
The measure of a good book to me is whether I will tell my friends and students to read the book. In fact, with a great book, I become the pushy person with an opinion who keeps talking until you agree with her. Whenever I recommend a book to someone, I want them to read the book because only then will they understand the rightness of my opinion. Reading is my entertainment more than anything else, and Jackson's books make me feel as if I am enlightening my mind with Masterpiece Theater as opposed to trashing my mind with Jersey Shore, yet at the same time, I enjoy her books more than any of my guilty pleasures reading. In other words, it is like chocolate without the calories. So read this book, and then read her other books, then you can feel smart while doing something fun!