Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: Backseat Saints

Summary: 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.

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. -- Grand Central Publishing

A few days ago, I realized that BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson was going to be released this week (today's actually the day), I dropped everything and picked it up. I have read a few of Ms. Jackson's books and I really like her as an author, but I was particularly excited about BACKSEAT SAINTS after I read the book description. I love books that explore relationships and especially mother-daughter relationships; and BACKSEAT SAINTS just sounded so good!

I had no problem finishing this book before the publication date because I couldn't put it down. I literally locked myself in my room to finish the last 75 pages because I didn't want to be interrupted. I loved this book -- I really did! Not only did this novel really resonate with me, but it also entertained me. This book touched my heart while also making me laugh; and I absolutely was intrigued because there were elements of suspense and quite a few twists and turns. I can't really ask much more of a book!

While I have almost nothing in common with the main character Rose, I really found myself loving her! She was a woman whose mother had left when she was just a girl and whose alcoholic father abused her. Then, after a string of bad guys, she ends up marrying a real loser who constantly beats the heck out of her. She really didn't have any friends except for the old lady next door who brought her baked goods. I couldn't help but feel pity for her, yet I also found myself really rooting for her -- even when she was highly irrational!

There is little doubt that Rose was a very emotionally unstable woman (who could blame her after her lousy childhood?), and yet I just had a feeling that she was a survivor. Rose was an extremely complex character who never knew what it was like not to be abused. As obvious as it seemed to me at times that Rose should have removed herself from her situation, I recognize that it's never that simple for a woman to leave her abusive husband. I think Ms. Jackson did a wonderful job of getting inside the mind of an abused woman and showing readers how destructive (both mentally and physically) abuse can be to a person.

There were so many things I really liked about this novel, but as a mother, I liked how Ms. Jackson explored a very nontraditional mother/daughter relationship. Throughout the course of the novel, Rose has to not only re-evaluate herself and her actions, but she also has to rethink everything she's ever thought about her mother. I thought Ms. Jackson did a great job of showing Rose's character development -- both how she grew as a person and how she learned to "accept" her mother.

I absolutely love Ms. Jackson's writing style. I thought her character development, especially Rose's, was fantastic; and I was pleasantly surprised by all of the twists and turns in this story. This probably goes without saying, but Ms. Jackson captured the essence of the South perfectly -- gotta love good Southern fiction! And I loved how she managed to incorporate so many truly funny (laugh-out-loud) moments into this book while also delving into some very heavy topics.

While I wasn't able to find a reading guide for BACKSEAT SAINTS, I'm sure there will be one available in the very near future. This novel is just ideal for book clubs and particularly book clubs that are made up of women and/or moms. I think there is so much to explore about this book especially as it pertains to the complex and emotionally flawed characters. So many of the themes also warrant further discussion including parent/child relationships, mother/daughter relationships, sacrifices, forgiveness, redemption, and the big one -- abuse.

I really recommend adding BACKSEAT SAINTS to your summer reading list. It's definitely not a fluff read because it does address some very serious issues; however, I can't think of a better book to take to the beach or pool with you! If you've had the chance to read this novel, I'm dying to hear what you think!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel.


Beth F said...

I loved the two Jackson books I read and I've been meaning to get to this one. So glad it's good. Now I have to dig it out from the pile.

Marie Cloutier said...

I agree. I thought it was awesome! I read it over the weekend and like you couldn't put it down.

bermudaonion said...

I shouldn't have read your review before mine goes live on Thursday - I'll be embarrassed by mine now. This is a book that is not to be missed!

Amy said...

This book sounds incredible, definitely one I want to pick up. Thanks for the great review.

S. Krishna said...

Eek - this one's already out?? It's been on my "doesn't come out for a long time" shelf. I'll have to move it so it catches my eye when I'm looking for my next read - you've definitely piqued my interest.

Anonymous said...

was supposed to get a copy of this and never did. sounds really great. need a book I can't put down and haven't found one in months.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I love the cover!!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Seriously, I'm 75 pages from the end -- and I have a tennis lesson tonight that I'm thinking of skipping! Love this book! I've never read a single word by this author -- where have I been?

marissa with hadley lane said...

Just finished the book this afternoon. LOVED it!!!