Rose Mae Lolley's mother disappeared when she was eight, leaving Rose with a heap of old novels and a taste for dangerous men. Now, as demure Mrs. Ro Grandee, she's living the very life her mother abandoned. She's all but forgotten the girl she used to be-teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol-until an airport gypsy warns Rose it's time to find her way back to that brave, tough girl . . . or else. Armed with only her wit, her pawpy's ancient .45, and her dog Fat Gretel, Rose Mae hightails it out of Texas, running from a man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did.
Starring a minor character from Jackson's bestselling gods in Alabama, BACKSEAT SAINTS will dazzle readers with its stunning portrayal of the measures a mother will take to right the wrongs she's created, and how far a daughter will travel to satisfy the demands of forgiveness.
Jackson's latest, WITH MY LITTLE EYE pubs April 25, 2023. Pre-order now!
New York Times and USA today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is the author of WITH MY LITTLE EYE and nine other books, including NEVER HAVE I EVER, MOTHER MAY I, and THE ALMOST SISTERS. Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, three times been a #1 Book Sense Pick, been the Target Book Club Pick, a Barnes and Noble Pick of the Month, and the Sunday Times Thriller fo the Month. A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of her novels; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, and garnered two Listen Up Awards from Publisher’s Weekly.
To the outside world, Ro Grandee seems to have a good life: she's a beautiful woman married to a good looking and attentive husband from a well-respected family in Amarillo, Texas. However, after an airport gypsy tells Ro that she must kill her husband, we learn that Ro's picture perfect life is a facade that hides a marriage full of fear, violence, and abuse. Now, armed with only her pawpy's old gun, Ro plans her husband's murder, but will she be able to pull the trigger?
Backseat Saints begins with a bang and, unfortunately, ends with a whimper.
There's a lot to like here and, for the most part, I enjoyed the book. Joshilyn Jackson writes with wit and honesty about the South and its people (her dialogue is some of the best I've read), and to balance the darkness of spousal abuse with the humor of daily life is quite a feat.
What I appreciate the most about the book is that Ro never becomes a blank cipher for spousal abuse; many books of this nature focus on the violence and the abused remains a flat character with no real dimensions beyond the relationship to the abuse. Told from the first person point of view, Ro reveals the two halves of her personality. There's Ro Grandee, the lovely, submissive housewife, and then there's Rose Mae Lolley, the small town girl from Alabama who came to believe that love should be tempered by pain when her mother leaves and her father begins physically taking his anger out on Rose. Ro maintains her own personality (although secreted away in interior monologue that is Rose Mae Lolley's voice) despite being dominated by her husband, Thom. Her fear and her attraction to Thom become palpable and we see her foolishly clinging to hope in the good periods when he resolves to control his temper, and we see her anguish when he falls into familiar patterns. Like a meteorologist, Ro can predict the storm of his anger building but lacks the power to take shelter. While it's easy for those of us who have never been in an abusive relationship to become frustrated with her for her seeming refusal to leave him, Jackson does a good job of demonstrating how running is a luxury afforded to those with power. And Ro has been stripped of all power--financial, social, personal--by Thom, who has created a life that cages Ro in dependence upon him.
The novel, however, is problematic in two ways. The first is Ro's Catholicism, which seems surface at best and only to exist so that the novel could be given the title of Backseat Saints. The "saints" of the title are seldom brought into the narrative and never serve to move the plot forward. Entire chapters will pass and then a definite sense of "oops, haven't mentioned a saint in a while" crops up, a saint's name is dropped, and the narrative moves on--conspicuously saint-less.
The second issue is Ro's insistence on finding her ex-boyfriend from high school in the hopes that she can convince him to kill Thom. This plot line exists so Backseat Saints can dovetail with Jackson's novel, gods in Alabama (my personal favorite), which opens with Ro as a minor character appearing on the doorstep of Arlene Fleet's apartment in Chicago, demanding to know where her high school boyfriend is. The rest of gods is about Arlene making peace with a past she left behind in Alabama and Ro pretty much disappears as a character. I get that it was that particular character that inspired Jackson to write Saints, but instead of this segue feeling organic, it's been shoehorned in and makes for a strange, disjointed narrative. It also seems implausible that Ro would take such a risk, knowing the reaction her husband will have upon finding out she's been to Chicago without him. To have made Ro a character independent of gods would have tightened the narrative and cut some of the wasted length other reviewers have noted.
Despite these flaws, Backseat Saints has some lovely writing and I enjoyed the time spent with such complicated, flawed characters.
Joshilyn Jackson's novels are like extra helpings of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy on thanksgiving - so, incredibly, satisfying!! Her characters are so well drawn, her language so crisp and imagery so alive...
This book is about Rose May Lolley, who makes her encore appearance from gods in Alabama and her disastrous history with men, her father and husband especially. A great book about love, redemption, the mother/daughter bond, battered women, and the meanness and violence so inherent within some men. The insight into the mind of a battered wife exactly my age was eye-opening, and it is clear that the author went to some lengths to research the lives of battered women through the lenses of those who help them out of their situations.
A great read, perfectly delicious for either a beach read, a cloudy day curl-up with a blanket read, or a way to pass a long trip without even noticing the time going by.
I heart Joshilyn Jackson. I am currently rereading gods in Alabama to review some of the shared chapters with Rose Mae and Arlene Fleet.
February 2017: Rereading via audiobook, and OMG. The only thing better than a Joshilyn Jackson novel is a Joshilyn Jackson novel read to me by none other than Joshilyn Jackson. Her crisp diction and occasional smooth southern drawl are a reason to get in the car and start the commute to work early!
We have all heard stories of abuse and how it ends. This may start to come across as a quirky read because of the humor but Backseat Saints brings abuse, abandonment, alcoholisum, and absolution together with a pragmatic understanding through a realistic yet unpredictable, spitfire of a southern Alabaman woman on the edge. I had several moments where I thought this could all tick into a explosive time bomb ready to blow into one hot mess and scatter like cheep tacky lawn art. But I really found myself rooting for the main character and loved the suspense throughout. Keeps you on the tip of your seat.
I love Jacksons prose she has a way with words thats charming and entertaining all on its own. I did just read "Gods in Alabama" and this book takes a minor character from it and intermingles the stories so you get to see each in a new light. This novel brings Rose May Lolley into the forefront. Who I didn't honestly feel for much just pittied in the first book to doing a switcheroo on me and really liking her! You could read these in any order but I did read them back to back while everything was fresh in my mind. Was a unique twist for me and I really enjoyed it.
I loved the cover of this book and admit I was under a hypnotic daze of cover lust. As I read on I came to my own realization that it was symbolic and perfectly simple. The main character Rose(AKA) Ro(AKA) Ivy made the three parts it takes to weave into one. All three where deep inside Rose and made her whole, beautiful and strong enough to confront her life full of demons. Sometimes when life makes changes or new decisions are made, we cut away the ugly burden we carried for far to long. I took away the lesson that battling with forgivness can be the hardest part of life but the peace it brings is worth every bit of the struggle.
Though the premise of this story is not unique, the wonderful storytelling by Joshilyn Jackson made Backseat Saints a favourite of mine. This book was intense!
Rose Mae Lolley was living a very dangerous life but it was the only one she knew how to live. A warning from a gypsy started to permeate her deliberate ignorance about where her marriage is headed and set Rose Mae on a path to confront her past.
I found this story so stressful that I had to put it down for several days. I kept contemplating starting back up because I wanted to know what was going to happen but then I couldn’t because at the same time, I was too anxious to find out what was going to happen.
I decided to read this after reading Gods in Alabama by the same author. I was surprised to see that Rose Mae Lolley was the main character in a different book. The book involved more of a connection to Gods in Alabama than I had expected. But I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had enjoyed Gods in Alabama.
I understand that Rose Mae Lolley isn't the same person when she's with her abusive husband, Thom. But reading about her talking about herself as if she's talking about a friend (using the third person) was really annoying. The book was well-written other than this.
There were a lot of twists and turns. I learned more about the different saints and what their roles are. I know the book is called Backseat Saints, but I expected it to mean something else. Not really involve Catholic saints. But the religion wasn't overdone or forced onto the reader.
I had a problem reading this book because I felt it dragged on at times. It was never really boring, but I felt a lot of it was unnecessary. And it jumped around a lot, sometimes unexpectedly, from past to present.
I guess I just expected more from this book. But it just felt average.
I could not put this book down this morning; the breakfast dishes are still in the sink and the dog is looking at her empty food bowl with frustration.
I love chick lit. Not ‘woman meets the man of her dreams’ romance but ‘woman kicks the man to the curb and gets a life’ drama. This novel fit the bill nicely. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Ro Grandee crosses paths with a tarot reader and is told her future contains death: it’s either her or her abusive husband. She takes off knowing he won’t stop looking for her until she’s dead. That description sounds a little flip and probably wouldn’t inspire me to pick up the book. In reality, this is a complicated and disturbing read about Ro, the perfect housewife who hides her bruises under long sleeves; Rosa Mae, the woman with backbone whose mother abandoned her and left her alone with her abusive father; and Ivy, the woman who is trying to start a new life. What makes it complicated is that they are all the same person.
Exactly what I needed, and easy-reading story with lots of emotion. My only problem was that I did not realize that this book was based on a minor character from Gods in Alabama (which I read earlier this year), so I got very confused a quarter way in thinking that the author is repeating the exact same who-dunnit. I found most of the characters incredibly self-centred which makes perfect sense if you look at their background. I love that this author can tackle heavy issues in a light way.
The Story: Ro Grandee is the perfect Texas housewife. She’s determined to be nothing like her long-missing mother, the one who left her with only a heap of old novels and her father’s fists for company, so Ro keeps quiet and takes her husband’s punches like a lady.
I picked up Backseat Saints because I saw an ad about it on Goodreads which had a line that went something like "A gypsy told me I had to kill me husband or he'd kill me." Immediately, I thought "Wow! This seems like it could have a lot of potential..." And I was not mistaken. Backseat Saints was an amazing and gripping novel. It wasn't what I expected in the most wonderful way.
I tend to love novels about the South. While most people I know want to live in California or New York or England, etc., etc. I really just want to settle down in some state in the South. So, I guess that I'm just living vicariously through these books (only in terms of destination, though). So, that was a big reason why I was so interested in Backseat Saints. I expected a book that was mildly dark (it is about domestic abuse, after all), but with it's share of lightness (as most novels about the South that I've read tend to be full of light), but it wasn't. Don't get me wrong. There was a bit of humor in this book (one part in particular was when Rose wanted to talk to Arlene and Arlene climbed a tree to avoid her; that part just had me in stitches due to the absurdity of it all), but most of the book was way darker than I expected. But there seemed to be just enough balance to it that I didn't feel utterly depressed, yet I also didn't feel like the author was making light of a terrible situation.
Now, the main character, Ro Grandee (or Rose Mae Lolley or Ivy Rose), was written in an utterly amazing way. Right from the beginning, I could sense the distinction between each of these personalities within this one woman. And I was charmed by them all. While Ro is deliciously flawed, Rose Mae was all types of badass, and Ivy Rose had all of these characteristics with a dash of bitterness as well. Yet, every single facet of this woman rang true. I never once thought that one of them was an act.
Anyway, I thought Backseat Saints was a tremendous novel. It starts up and it never lets up even when you reach the shocking conclusion. It had a bit of that Southern charm that I love, a sprinkling of that sort of "coming of age" mentality, and it was also a whole lot of thriller. But most of all, it was just plain amazing! I highly recommend it and can't wait to read Gods in Alabama by the same author, especially considering that that one deals with Arlene and she had me intrigued in the cameo she had in Backseat Saints.
I guess, if pushed, I could give this a 1.5 for having SOME redeeming qualities, but in truth those redeeming qualities only reinforced how much better this book could have been, and wasn't. Reading this felt like when I read my students' papers and cross out whole paragraphs only to then come to one sentence and circle it saying, YES! YES! MORE LIKE THIS!! I don't do well with stories of battered women, and this one was not only hard to read for all the usual reasons, but it was baffling and disturbing in other ways as well, none of them good. We are taken down south where apparently freaking EVERYBODY drinks and beats their wives - meet Rose, who grew up being kicked around by her daddy, and insisted on dating and ultimately marrying that same genre of men. Jackson attempts to weave together an interesting idea, that of a rather unlikely woman (saucy, strong, independent) becoming submissive beaten wife with her real self buried but not forgotten - but it just ended up confusing me. Her character just seemed confounding and befuddling, and therefore rarely all that sympathetic minus the freebie of her being beaten so of course we feel bad, except it never seems like she makes a practical plan of action. Either she plots a murder she can never follow through on, or she decides that her high school sweetheart (another drunkard) will be the answer, even though he abandoned her years ago and has probably moved on. This felt, at times, like that movie Young Adult, whereby the once pretty and popular girl hits her thirties and we see that she never really graduated and is therefore just pathetic. Anyway add to all this misery - her mom is a weird gypsy who keeps playing tricks on her and there are all kinds of weird twists and turns and things that maybe I was supposed to catch on to but frankly did not. All this did was make me thankful my family moved out of Texas when I was still a kid.
Did you ever read a book where all the characters were unlikable, yet you could not stop turning the pages? This was the case for for me with Joshilyn Jackson's, Backseat Saints.
Rose Mae Lolley grew up in Fruition, Alabama. She was abandoned by her mother at the age of eight, when she escaped her violent husband, leaving little Rose behind with her alcoholic father. He was a man who used booze to drown his sorrows, and when that did not work, he physically abused Rose.
Rose (Ro) was a crafty young girl, the "prettiest girl in high school"; she knew how to get who and what is wanted. As soon as she was old enough she left home, headed for Texas and set her sights on Thom Grandee, who she ends up marrying. Rose goes from the good girl, dutifully performing her housewife duties, to the not so good girl who knows just what to say and do to push her "hot-head" husband's buttons. This of course, usually results in her being beaten by Thom.
One day when Rose brings a neighbor to the airport, she meets a gypsy who reads her tarot cards and tells he "kill or be killed", referring to her relationship with with her husband Thom. So the not - so - good girl begins to plan her escape now that the seed has been planted by the gypsy (her long lost mother).
This is a novel is full of emotionally damaged characters: Rose, her mother, her father, her husband, all who are dealing with the consequences of a life of bad choices. Despite this, it was a story that held my interest all the way. I do believe, pitiful Rose, and her (3-legged dog Fat Gretel) will win a place in your heart, as they did in mine. They had me thinking about the two of them even after the final page was turned. RECOMMENDED - 4.5/5 stars (review Copy)
a few touching quotes
"My mother had been counting off the days literally behind my father's back. Marking time. Like any prisoner might. She hadn't begun at the start of their marriage, though. She'd begun at the start of me. The first line counted the days after my birth until the New Year. There were eighteen lines, each standing for a year she'd have to serve me to get to adulthood......................................She'd planned to stay another ten years, looked like, but she'd let herself out early. Time off for good behavior?"
"I wanted to be done with the violent, angry girl my mother had created with her leaving, and I'd long been done with Ro."
I wanted to love this book- I really did. I really enjoyed BETWEEN, GA- one of Joshilyn Jackson's previous books- so I was looking forward to her writing style again. This book though, didn't really pick up until the second half. The first half, in fact, rather dragged on. Without giving away too much plot, it wasn't until Rose got moving, that the story got moving. Mostly though, I felt that the title was unfortunate. While the saints were part of the story, they were so little of the story, I found the title to be a distraction while I read- wondering why that had been chosen as they clearly weren't the focus of Rose's life, or her even her mother's life. Clearly they were a part, but not a guiding focus. It made me wonder if there had been a significant rewriting along the way... something I was missing, or just not getting. Time & again as I picked up the book I was distracted by the title. Oh well- not a great book, but an interesting one along the way.
I finished this book only because I'm being a good book club member, lol. I thought our category was supposed to be "light Southern"? Ehh, imo, this isn't.
How did I dislike this book? Let me count the ways... (Lots of spoilers ahead, btw.)
01. There's a lot of domestic violence. A lot. 02. And sometimes the victim "likes" it (or feels like she deserves it because, you know, she's a bad girl). 03. More DV. 04. Lots of sex. Because that's how you keep the guy from beating you. (As well as perfect cooking, perfectly cleaned house, & perfect personal grooming.) 05. Guns. Gun shop. Guns. Gun love. 06. She shoots her dog (by accident). No the dog doesn't die but does lose a leg. (Animal stuff like that really is a no-go for me.) 07. There's mention of a dead cat. Dead because its neck was broken, hinted as being done by a violent-when-drunk guy... (Again, animal stuff like that really is a no-go for me.) 08. More DV. Dad, high school boyfriend, "perfect" husband. 09. And yet the main character can't live without a guy, even for a second. 10. Her mom abandoned the family when the main character was around 8yo. It's been 20 years. The main character runs into a tarot reader in the airport & knows it's her mom. It is never really explained. And it really does turn out to be her mom. Just... what? 11. Wispy saints show up once in awhile in the story, I guess to offer advice or support or ethereally lounge around? (Main character is a Catholic in the South amidst all the Protestants.) I don't mind "magical" type elements in a story but this was just oddly done. 12. Similar to how some books have all women as either whores or saints, this seems to do the same thing with men. They're either horrible (almost all of them in the book) or almost saintly (one of whom has his masculinity mocked, imo, in the descriptive passages because he's described as being slight, having long hair, & wearing "mandals" [instead of sandals]; the other good guy is gay). 13. If her dad lost his house, how could he afford to move to the one across the street & fill it with exactly everything the same way? 14. The "big finale" seemed overdramatic & over-the-top.
What did I like about the book?
01. Peter the hairdresser. 02. That the dad (from AL) pronounces window as wind-er. 03. I learned that a "palm reading" sign in the window might indicate a brothel. For real? If so, I didn't know that. 04. At least the dog lived, even if her name included the word "Fat" as part of her name, as well as only having three legs due to existing in the pages of this book. 05. That I am no longer reading it. (I would like a refund for my time, please.)
(Obviously, I am not the target audience for this book so my review is definitely skewed. I am giving two stars because at least the writing, mechanics-wise, was okay.)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I have read two other of Jackson's books, one of which I loved, and one of which I liked a lot. They made me eager to read other books she wrote. This one was a big disappointment. The main character, Rose Mae or Ro, uses her two names to distinguish two personalities she feels are within her. Unfortunately, I can't tell one from the other because both seem to be completely man-centric, and abusive man-centric, at that. And then she comes up with with a new name, Ivy, that is for her new life. And none of these personalities, as far as I am concerned, is at all likable. The book is much too long. By that I mean that the book is too long for the quality and amount of its content. After long descriptions of her husband Tom's abuse, we finally see him action when he pulverizes Ro and puts her in the hospital after almost killing her. Afterward, Ro goes back to him and goes through many deliberate actions, some seemingly practical and some seemingly symbolic. It appears she is planning her escape. Eventually it turns out that she is planning nothing, frittering her time and money away on fool's errands. The reader is tempted (and, if you are listening to it on audio alone in the car as I was, actually do) yell at her, "Get out of the ^&*%$# house, whatever-your-name-is." Of course she waits too long and is caught off guard,proving that none of her personalities has any smarts.
Her disappeared mother is tied up in all of this, and you learn from where Rose Mae-Ro-Ivy gets her likeability.
The only character I liked was her dog Fat Gretl, who is collateral damage to the household she unfortunately belong to, and loses one of her FRONT legs. Her recovery and adaption to being a three-legged dog is miraculously easy, since it is never mentioned, while what's-her-name moans on and on about her injuries. Later in the book, Gretl is in the back yard and scratches at the door with her unique "one-legged scratch." I would have liked to have seen that. I guess Fat Gretl was standing on her hind legs in order to scratch with her remaining front paw. Just an observation.
Joshilyn Jackson consistently tells a good story. However, this novel carries a message about a compelling problem in our society--domestic violence, in all its variations, verbal, emotional, physical and sexual. Rose Mae Lolley is an Alabama girl, left by her mother with her father when she was only eight. Rose remembers hiding under her bed at nights when she would hear the screams coming from her parents' room. And when Rose is left alone with her father, she takes her mother's place as her father's favorite target for all his anger. In high school Rose leaves Alabama and leaves a trail of relationships with bad men from Fruiton, Alabama, to Amarillo, Texas, where she meets and marries Thom Grandee. Beneath the lightweight scarves and longsleeve sweaters she wears even in summer to cover Thom's bruises, Rose Mae has been transformed into a new creature, "Ro Grandee" who wears delicate dresses and ballet flats bedecked with little bows and ribbons. Ro is trapped in a relationship with a man she knows will never let her go. Taking her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Fancy, to the airport, she meets a strangely dressed woman that Mrs. Fancy identifies to be Ro twenty years in the future. The airport gypsy gives Ro a Tarot reading with the message that Ro must make a choice. Either she must kill Thom or Thom will surely kill her. Ms. Jackson has clearly done her research. Her portrait of a woman trapped in domestic violence is perfect in every way. Victims and survivors of one of society's best hidden problems has a new literary advocate. Ms. Jackson is to be commended for a story that is so true for so many women around the world.
Another winner by Joshilyn Jackson – full of southern wit and some strong bad-ass women! I listened to the audio version (highly recommend as she is quite the storyteller) and she does it so well! Gripping, full of suspense and quirky characters, and as usual the author knows how to entertain southern style!
This book covers so much, from abuse (father and husband) the author tells the story from a first person point of view and the main character (Ro) has two different personalities (Roe Grandee) –the lovely submissive housewife, which can be as sweet as honey no matter how much she is a punching bag and (Rose Mae Lolley) - grew up when her mother left her with her father which began abusing her. Later she became (Ivy) to hide from her abuser. As usual, at the hand of abuse – she stays as there are good times thinking he would change until the bad next time comes around once again.
After many trips to the hospital, she finds a friendship with her next door neighbor (loved her), and when she takes her to the airport, she meets a tarot card reader (who happens to be her mom). She tells her she must kill her husband before he kills her.
She plans a few different ways to make this happen (trying to shoot him herself), develop a new identity and leave town, and trying to track down an old boyfriend to do it for her.
Full of emotionally damaged characters: Rose, her mother, her father, her husband, all who are dealing with the consequences of a life of bad choices. A page- turner from the first page to the last, full of humor, sass, and southern mischief!
This story struck a chord in me. It's the familiar situation of an abusive husband, who once he is left by his wife, becomes an abusive father to the daughter left behind. The daughter grows up thinking this is what men are like, and history repeats itself. It takes a lot for her to wake up and become brave enough to make a change and escape but her fear is what most women fear in these situations-he'll find you and make you pay.
I listened to this on audio and one of the best things about it was Joshilyn herself. She was the narrator and did an awesome job. Her southern accent and animated voice was so easy to listen to. She took this heavy topic and added a little humor and southern charm.
The parallel story to Gods in Alabama. A story with humor and sadness, but about a very, real problem - domestic abuse in all forms. This book takes on the story of Rose Mae Lolley. I listened to Backseat Saints on audio and while I cannot say that I liked it as much as Gods In Alabama, it is well done. Joshilyn Jackson is quite the storyteller.
I have been reading this author for awhile now and I have to say that I have never been disappointed by any book I have read. They all make me feel something, they all make me connect to the characters in some way. They all make me wish that I could visit the areas the author describes. They all make me wonder just who they are based on :) To the outside world, Ro is a woman who has it made...she's beautiful, she's married to a good looking man from a well-respected family, she's got money...but all is not as it seems and Ro is not only unhappy but she is in danger from said husband. One day a gypsy at the airport tells Ro that it is either her or her husband and she must choose wisely...he will kill her one day. When it comes down to it, will Ro be able to choose herself over her husband? This book was full of so much growth and I absolutely loved it :)
I have gone back and forth multiple times over my star rating for this novel. And here is where I tell you why:
First, Backseat Saints is the story of what it means to live in a marriage "made of swords." It is about the cycle of domestic violence and how it is passed down through generations. And, fundamentally, it is about a woman who is afraid that it has come down to killing her husband before he manages to beat her to death.
The main character in Backseat Saints bothered me a little. She was somewhat unsympathetic, which means that the author wrote her extremely accurately, because she was described as the kind of woman that other women had little time for or interest in. As the prettiest girl in her high school, she hadn't gotten along with the cheerleaders, or the loser-drinker girls either. She had a hard time throughout her life maintaining female friendships, until an elderly neighbor took her under her wing and treated her like her long-lost daughter or granddaughter.
Because I had a hard time liking her - even if it was obvious why she came by the personality she did, growing up in the house she did - I had a hard time liking her very much, although I did really like the way she loved her sweet, 3 legged dog. Fat Gretel - the dog - was probably my favourite character in the entire book. The problem was, there were other characters I just didn't like much either - I hated her husband, her father was pretty vile, and her mother was difficult to relate to and not terribly likeable either. The story, on the other hand, was compelling and kept me reading. But I didn't feel like I left this book wanting more - I was kind of glad it was all over, to be honest. And I didn't leave feeling like I'd left characters behind that I'd love to visit again, hence the lower rating.
This is one of those books that you feel like you should read, and should plow all the way through, because it is an important kind of story, but it wasn't, for me at least, one read with much passion or interest.
On the surface, this book, which is a companion piece to the author's Gods in Alabama, is another rehashing of poor southern womanhood gathering scars from parental abuse and marrying a man who will dish out more of the same so she can rise about all victorious. But there is a twist. Rose Mae Lolley sees herself as a nesting doll, nested inside a another persona she calls Ro Grandee (her married name). Her husband Thom is also damaged by his overbearing father, and the facts that they are both employed in the family business (does it have to be guns?), and live in a house financed by a wedding present feeds his insecurities. Together, they make a self destructive pair, asking for punishment and receiving it, using their shortcomings as excuses for irrational behavior. This is an interesting premise -- making the abusive husband almost a sympathetic figure, but the story goes off the rails somewhat later on and without giving more away, I'll only say that the payoff is less than satisfactory.
I continue to love all things Joshilyn Jackson! I just can't say enough about how real and Southern her writing is, how vivid her language is, or how touching and somethings haunting her stories are!!!
I had never heard of Joshilyn Jackson before, until she was recommended to me in my Scribd account. I noticed that she narrates all her audio books, and I absolutely love when authors do that. I think it adds another wonderful layer to the story.
Backseat Saints is about a woman whose husband beats her. Although the story deals with tough topics, Jackson presents it with humor and honesty. Rose is a tough woman, and this book showcases the fact that a woman is not weak if she is being abused.
I will be reading everything from Joshilyn Jackson now, and I cannot tell you enough how much I adored this book. I absolutely was not ready for it to end.
I have long avoided general contemporary fiction because I've never really met one I liked—save perhaps Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary. I tried again last year to broaden my reading palate with Julia Leigh's Disquiet, only to yet again be thoroughly disappointed and slip back into my comfortable world of historical dramas and fantasy/sci-fi.
When I was offered the chance to read and review Backseat Saints, I thought to myself "Why not? Maybe I'll even be surprised". And I was very much surprised.A book has not kept me quite on the edge of my seat as Backseat Saints, not for a good while. I found myself nervously gnawing my finger nails and gasping out loud to the twists and turns our heroine Rose Mae goes through. Joshilyn creates a rich world with complex characters and arduous emotions that leave the reader short-winded and pulseless, but in such a good way.
As a deep south girl myself (Alabama, baby!), I'm always displeased with how we are portrayed in entertainment mediums. However, Joshilyn had just the right amount of southerness without making everyone seem like an ignorant redneck. The dialect was spot on, and I found myself smiling when Rose Mae remembered how her father says "wind-er" instead of "window". That's just how my father says it as well.
Backseat Saints has a bit of an interwoven storyline with Jackson's debut novel, Gods in Alabama, but I do not think they have to be read together. Nevertheless, I'm sure like me, after you've read this one you will definitely be itching to pick up Gods in Alabama. I'm insanely curious to read Arleen's side of her encounter with Rose Mae. Already, I've been recommending this book to my sisters so yes, do go read it. It's wonderful! Backseat Saints is my first introduction to Joshilyn Jackson, but it certainly will not be my last.
A word of caution though, if your life has in any way been touched by domestic abuse, I do not suggest that you read this book. The scenes it describe are exceptionally vivid and would be insanely painful to read if you have actually lived through something similar.
Joshilyn Jackson is a TRUE storyteller! Not only does she weave a wonderful tale on paper, but she is also extremely entertaining as the reader of her own story. I read this via audiobook & her reading was an experience all in itself. She was perfect! She did a great southern accent and voices for various characters. I loved the book, but having her read it to me made it another experience entirely! I highly recommend this on audio, you cannot be disappointed! I won't go into a summary here of what the story is about because you will find it in most other reviews and of course on the book jacket. My opinion of this book is this...if you've gotten this far, I'll assume that you have enough interest in the type of story told here. Don't delay, now you must just read (or listen!) to it! I really hate to compare authors/books, but...I must. While I was reading this, I came upon a part of the book that sounded queerly familiar. So much so that it really gnawed at me. I looked back in my Goodreads history and realized that it was Nicholas Sparks' "Safe Haven" that was ringing a bell. The entire 'escape' portion was the exact same thing as how I read it in Sparks' book. Hmmmmm.... These books were published only months apart, so I don't know that one copied another, so I guess I'll just have to make the conclusion that great minds think alike; and they were doing so simultanously in these two books. As for a comparison of which book in it's entirety was I most entertained by - hands down, this was by far the better version! This was not just another retelling of the abused woman's sob story, there were so many little additions...a constant something interesting was popping up all the time. I think I have found a new favorite author here! I am so taken by her storytelling - one, that she kicked the b--- of the famous Nicholas Sparks; and two because her talent is not in just the writing but the TELLING as well! That to me is the sign of a TRUE storyweaver. Were publishing and mass production nonexistant, Joshlyn Jackson would be telling her tales in verbal form. She would be the 'town storyteller', the one we're all begging to 'please...please could you tell us a story!'. So, this is easily a five star book, particularly because the reading made it even better! I'll be looking for more Joshilyn Jackson right away!
Backseat Saints is the second Joshilyn Jackson novel I have read, and I really enjoy this author. Actually, I listened to this one (narrated by Joshilyn Jackson). This time, the topics of domestic abuse, abandonment, and alcoholism are covered.
I liked the character of Rose Mae/Ro - a young victim who is abandoned by her mother and left to be reared by her alcoholic and abusive father. As is often the case, Rose Mae marries a man very similar to her father. Although the role of the saints/religion was silly sometimes, I think that the author did a good job of incorporating them in a way a young person would feel. Rose Mae obviously was exposed to religion at some point, but since she was abandoned by her mom at a young age, she clung to what she could remember.
The novel dragged some with the part of looking for an ex-boyfriend, but once Rose Mae was underway looking for her mother, the pace picked up again. I loved the southern charm in Jackson's writing, and listening to her read was a pleasure. I look forward to reading other books by her.
Can't say enough good stuff about this author, so I will just copy & paste the same thing for each book*...I don't think it's ever taken me longer than two days to finish a Joshilyn book! She weaves the most entertaining tales that have just the right mixture of happy, sad, hope, fear, normalcy, and dysfunction and nails it every single time! Thus far, they have always centered around a strong-willed female character from the South who is on some sort of personal journey that requires her to revisit ghosts from a past she'd rather forget. They also involve a complicated mother-daughter relationship that always results in a mom who loves her daughter as much as she is able, even if it isn't always shown in conventional ways. The stories are just beautiful and poignant. Get sucked into her world; you won't be disappointed!! *I'll add for this one, since it's the newest and my most recently read, that I think this might just be my favorite! Though my fave would probably be whichever one I was re-reading at the time. :) Another masterpiece.
I love this author. She is so funny and I enjoy her books immensely. This is my third novel I’ve read that was written by her and I was not disappointed. The way she writes about things makes me feel that it is all brand new to me and it is ever so vivid. Even though this book encompasses some serious issues like alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, and murder, which are topics frequently used in a lot of books, she makes it sound as if I have never read it before. And did I mention she is funny. I almost felt guilty for laughing sometimes.
Her descriptive writing helps you to instantly form a picture, which I absolutely love, and is greatly appreciated since her novels are paced at a nice clip. Rose is probably someone I would not like in real life, but in this book, I rooted for her in all her antics.
Trigger warning: This book deals graphically with domestic abuse. If you have issues with that, it would be advisable not to read this.
I have read two other books by Joshilyn Jackson, The Almost Sisters and Gods in Alabama, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. In those books, there were secondary characters who suffered abuse but the main characters did not. In Backseat Saints, an abused secondary character from gods in Alabama takes center stage and, like many women who were abused as children, she chose a husband who abused her as well.
In the beginning, I was quite disappointed with this book. One thing I admired about the main characters in Almost Sisters and gods in Alabama was their independence and their ability to stand up for themselves. I like to identify with the main character, especially when a book is written in first person. It took me over half the book to grow to like Rose Mae Lolley, aka Ro Grandee, aka Ivy Rose Wheeler. When she finally leaves her abuser and seeks out her mother, who left Rose with an abusive father, I started to respect her a little more than I had in the beginning.
I still plan to read some of Joshilyn Jackson's other books. Two out of three books that I have rated 4-star is phenomenal (I only give 5 stars for recognized classics or books I believe are exceptional). I read this book primarily because I knew there were several scenes in gods in Alabama that overlapped. For those who are curious, I would say go ahead and read gods in Alabama and let Backseat Saints wait until you have read Jackson's other books.
Backseat Saints is longer than the other two books mentioned, and Rose stays with her abusive husband far too long, not because she couldn't leave but because she chose not to. I remember my mother telling me from the time I was a little girl, "If a man raises his hand in anger to you even once, get out right then and don't go back." Although my parents' marriage was often a screaming match, my father never once hit her, and my mother held her own when it came to arguments. With that example of a strong woman during my childhood, I find it hard to understand women who stay with abusers. Intellectually I understand the reasons why they do, but emotionally I just want to scream "Get out of there! And take your children with you!" (if they have any). I realize that is easier said than done, but it can be done.