BACKSEAT SAINTS, Joshilyn Jackson's latest novel is the story of Rose Mae Lolley. But it's also Ro Grandee's story. The interesting twist is that they are the same person. Ro Grandee is the wife of Thom, son of the successful Grandee family of Amarillo, Texas. His family owns three large gun stores throughout the state and though Thom works side by side with his father, running the family businesses, Thom can't make a move without his father's approval or interference, in most cases. While Ro tries to keep her husband on an even keel so he doesn't take his frustrations out on her, sometimes Rose Mae Lolley has to take over. She's always been stronger than Ro and she knows how to handle Thom Grandee.
Here's a bit about the book straight from the author's website:
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. But Ro wasn't always this way. Underneath her pastel skirts and hidden bruises lies Rose Mae Lolley, teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol. Rose Mae is resurrected when a gypsy's tarot cards foretell doom for dutiful Ro: her handsome husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.
Armed with only her wit, her pawpy's ancient .45, and her dog Fat Gretel, Rose Mae hightails it out of Texas. In a journey that is by turns harrowing and exhilarating, she uncovers long buried truths about her family and herself, running from the man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did.
My thoughts on the book:
The first thing that I was curious about was the braid on the front cover of the book. In the last week or so, while I've been blogging about this book, other people have questioned the braid as well. Last week, I featured this book in Teaser Tuesdays. Let me share with you the teaser I chose from this book:
I picked up the braid and walked back to the bathroom. I think I meant to put it in the trash, but I caught sight of myself in the mirror and stopped. I was ten pounds too thin and two shades paler than paper. My shorn hair hung around my face in a ragged tangle, longer on the right side than the left. I had kaleidoscope eyes, spinning with a hundred different colors of pure, naked crazy. For the first time in years, I was face-to-face with Rose Mae Lolley.
The symbolism of that braid speaks volumes. Domestic violence is at the center of this story. But even with such a serious subject, Jackson uses wit and smartly placed humor to talk about this disturbing issue that happens every day in our society. In the beginning, we learn a little about Ro Grandee and where she came from and how she met her handsome husband. Then there's the tarot-reading gypsy Ro meets in the airport at a seemingly chance meeting. Aside from the domestic violence in her life, Ro also had been living with the fact that her mother left her when she was a child. She always wondered why her mother didn't love her enough to take her with her. As you can imagine, Rose Mae never got over her mother leaving and it was interesting following her on her quest to find answers about this painful part of her life.
The characters in the book were very believably written. Some were a little scary while others were a little quirky. As the story continues, things turn more serious and the humor lessens as Rose Mae makes a plan and starts to take control of her life.
When I first received this book I didn't realize that Ro/Rose Mae had been a supporting character in Jackson't previous novel, GODS IN ALABAMA, which I hadn't yet read. That said, BACKSEAT SAINTS is a stand alone novel. I do plan to read GODS IN ALABAMA to learn about Rose Mae in her high school days and about her first love, Jim Beverly, who does play a part in this book.
I truly enjoyed Joshilyn Jackson's writing and I plan to read more of her books. I am a huge fan of Southern Fiction and this ranks right up at the top for me. While telling Rose Mae's story, she took me on an emotional journey from laughter, to heartbreak to joy to fear and I enjoyed it every step of the way. I can't encourage you enough to make the time to read this book. I'd like to thank Library Thing and Hachette Books for providing my review copy.
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Published: June 8, 2010
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommend)