Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Backseat Saints

Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Format: audio approx 13 hours, narrated by the author  352 pgs equivalent Characters: Rose Mae Lolly, her mother, her husband Tom Grandee
Subject: abused spouses, parental relationships,
Setting: Alabama, Amarillo Texas, Berkeley California
Genre: fiction
Source: audio book won in Hachette Giveaway

Joshilynn Jackson writes so realistically that the reader is instantly in the story.  Rose Mae Lolly is a character we first met in Jackson's earlier novel Gods in Alabama. In that work, Rose Mae plays only a small role.

Here in Backseat Saints, we fast forward about ten years to find "Ro"(as she now calls herself) married and living in Amarillo Texas.  Her husband, Tom Grandee, a big strapping brute who learned his manly behaviour at his father's knee, badly needs some anger management help. Rose has convinced herself that she is able to handle her life as an abused wife.  She knows all about how to recognize the signs from watching her parents in their inglorious relationship. That is, until an airport gypsy told her she had to kill her husband.  Either she killed him, or he was going to kill her.

Rose began her life as a victim when her mother just plain disappears and leaves seven year old Rose to fend with a drunken daddy. At 18, she left her father in a drunken stupor passed out on his favorite couch.  She never looked back, and waitressed her way across the south, through abusive relationship after abusive relationship.  When she meets Tom, she thinks this may be the path out of this life. She doesn't have to be Rose Mae Lolly anymore.  She can be "Ro Grandee" and leave that old life behind.  She has a job at her father-in-law's gun shop (so does her husband), she has her own hand-me-down car from her mother in law, she has a sweet little house which she keeps spotlessly clean (as much to avoid any trigger for Tom's anger as her belief in the godliness of cleanliness).  She even has a devoted mutt of a dog - Gretel, who will play a prominent role in the story.

When she drives her elderly next door neighbor to the airport, she is just recovering from a rather brutal beating and finally beginning to fear for her life.  As she helps carry luggage into the airport, she meets the gypsy who insists on 'reading her cards.' For some reason, Rose Mae seems to think the gypsy is her long lost mother and can't decide whether to follow the advice or not.

NO SPOILERS, but from there, the story really takes off, pulling the reader relentlessly toward what we think will be the inevitable ending. Other characters from Gods in Alabama appear briefly, but it is not necessary to have read the first book to fully understand and appreciate this one.

The ending is a stunner, and like her previous one, it leaves the reader breathless. It's definitely worth the time and trouble to track this one down.  The audio was especially well done, read by the author who grew up in the south, and reads with exquisite inflection and accent.  It was a joy to listen to.

Many thanks to Hachette Audio Group for making these available for giveaways, and thanks to Karen (aka "Bingo") for hosting the contest.


  1. Great book, I agree. Glad u liked the audio (I was afraid the accent, if you, might not work for me).

  2. I have Gods in Alabama around here, unread, and think I will tackle that one before I read this one, even if it is not necessary. But I will keep this one in mind for the future.

    Not sure one should take advice from a gypsy at the airport though...


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