Monday, August 9, 2010

Backseat Saints

"Backseat Saints" by Joshilyn Jackson
344 pages
Published June 2010 by Grand Central Publishing
Source: the publisher for the Manic Mommies Book Club

Rose Mae Lolley grew up rough--the daughter of an abused woman who left her behind when she disappeared and a father who took it out on her as soon as her mother left. She left home early but it's been one long string of abusive relationships culminating in her marriage to Thom Grandee. Rose Mae has reinvented herself, partially out of love and partially out of the need to survive, into Ro Grandee, a sweet little wife who wears ballet flats and floral skirts. But a chance encounter with a gypsy in the airport convinces Ro that it's time to get out of her marriage, one way or another, and Rose Mae is just the girl to do it.

"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. When she said that it was him or me, the words rang out like church bells, shuddering through my bones. For two days, they sat in the pit of my belly, making me sick. I had no reason to trust her, and I'd as soon take life advice from a Chinese take-out fortune cookie as believe in tarot cards, but I'd lived with Thom Grandee long enough to recognize the truth, no matter how it came to me."

But when Ro can't shoot Thom, she needs to find someone who will be willing to kill for her. She decides that her old high school beau is just the person to do the job--after all, he'd once said that he'd be willing to kill her father for her. But her search for Jim Beverly only serves to make her realize that she is on her own--with only her dog, Fat Gretel, her pawpy's gun, and her desire to survive and maybe find her mother in the process.

Jackson does a fine job of exploring abusive relationships and the lengths the abused must go to in order to survive. I especially liked the way she explored the different personas of not only Rose Mae but her abusers as well. Jackson doesn't attempt to portray Rose Mae's father or husband as good people but she does give them depth by showing the reader what has happened in their lives that may have lead them to become people that would do the things they do to Rose Mae. Likewise, I felt the relationship between Rose Mae and her mother was well developed and I enjoyed the way it changed over time.

Other things I felt happened too quickly but I can't really delve into the specifics without giving away anything. And I had a hard time buying the idea that the first person to whom Ro would turn would be a sometimes boyfriend from ten years earlier who disappeared without a trace while they were still in college. And hidden messages that Rose Mae's mother had left for her, while interesting, didn't seem to really contribute to the story other than to prod Rose Mae along initially. Still, the ending was a surprise and Jackson managed to make me care about Rose Mae even though she wasn't, in many ways, a particularly nice person.

Thanks to Mari, of Bookworm With A View, who wrangles the Manic Mommies Book Club and arranged a phone discussion with Jackson that will allow you to learn move about her process and thoughts about this book.

12 comments:

  1. I recently listened to the audiobook version and absolutely loved it. I didn't have a problem with Rose Mae turning to Jim -- she saw him as being the only positive relationship she had experienced, so it made sense to me. I did think finding him would be a long shot. And I have to admit, that when Rose Mae first finds those messages from her mother, I thought it was all just wishful thinking. I didn't think her search for her mother would be successful. Glad you liked it overall. I think in a year or so I'd like to read the print copy.

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  2. I found the cover a li'l weird and THAT intrigued me! Great review!

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  3. I cant see myself having a problem either of Rose turning to Jim - would like to read this book and thank you for the review.

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  4. Rose Mae wasn't particularly nice, but I think I cared about her because I knew why she wasn't nice and felt like it wasn't her fault. Great review.

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  5. I have been reading a lot about this book lately, and have not yet decided if I want to read this one or not. It sounds like you liked the book even though you had some issues with it, and I can imagine that I might have the same reaction. Thanks for the thorough review. I appreciated hearing your thoughts!

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  6. I didn't know if I liked the book until discussing it the with the author. Before talking with her I thought it was a good summer/beach read but after discussing the book I realized she was exploring so much more than I initially observed.

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  7. I have a copy of this one and I can not wait to get to this one this month!!

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  8. I didn't buy the hidden messages/mom appearing from the past, but I still loved the book.

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  9. I don't think this is for me.

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  10. That cover picture is kind of trippy. I've never read this one or any by this author. Interesting review.

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  11. My audiobook just arrived the other day - can't wait to get into it, so I confess I skimmed your review but marked it for later so I can read with a fresh mind.

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  12. I've been reading a lot of gushing reviews for this book lately, so it was nice to read your take on it.

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