Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson – Book Review

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing  – June 8, 2010 – Hardcover – 352 pages
Joshilyn Jackson (Website)
Source:  Review copy sent by the publisher

Rose Mae Lolley has known a world of hurt since her mother left her as a young child, and her once adored father turned his fists on her instead.  After suffering years of abuse at his hands, Rose Mae leaves her father and the only life that she has known when he reaches the age of eighteen, after having already been abandoned by her on again and off again boyfriend, Jimmy.  Even though she remakes herself as the docile and charming housewife, Ro Grandee, her husband Thom still embodies all that she has tried to leave behind, and when a gypsy tells her that she must kill her husband or die herself Rose Mae realizes that she must face her past if she is to survive.

This was my first experience with reading a novel by Joshilyn Jackson, but I have several of her other books, and this will not be the last one that I read.  I already know that I’ll be sending my copy of Backseat Saints along to my mother, so that I can see what she has to say.  Jackson starts her novel off by jumping in with both feet as Rose Mae immediately finds out that her husband has reached the point of no return and is a danger  to her life, a fact that she has carefully ignored, though the beatings Thom delivers grow more brutal and vicious each time.

Backseat Saints is a suspenseful novel with intricately drawn characters and several mysteries that unfold simultaneously, keeping the reader at the very edge of the seat.  I don’t know which outcome made me more anxious.  Rose Mae has to uncover and come to grips with the different aspects of herself as she ponders her mother’s abandonment of her and her father’s abuse and how they have played a role in the tragic life that she leaves with her husband.  I wanted to know what had happened to make her mother and then her boyfriend leave all those years ago.  Something sinister seems to lay at the heart of both, and I wanted to figure out if she would be able to figure a way out of the terrible dilemma that exists with her husband.

As the title implies, Backseat Saints, has a healthy dose of mysticism and explores the role of religion in upbringing and marriage.  Jackson is a writer who sets her stage well and I was taken with her evocative descriptions and characterizations, the way that all the people in her novel are capable of eliciting sympathy and understanding within the reader even though their actions are at times monstrous.  An ambitious number of themes and behaviors are explored here and some of the story lines are more tidily wrapped than others, but I was riveted until I turned the last page, and satisfied by the exploration of the limited options and the hard decisions that women in abusive relationships can face.


Read More Reviews At: Booking MamaDrey’s LibraryThoughts From An Evil Overlord A Worn PathBermudaOnion

Joshilyn Jackson, a prolific blogger in her own right, will be chatting with me tonight on That’s How I Blog! about her blogging, and about her new novel, Backseat Saints.  If you are around tonight at 9pm EST, join us!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

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  1. I just loved this one — so good. I have read one or two other Jackson books, but this one reminded me of how much I want to read everything she’s ever written.

    1. I really want to read Gods in Alabama now, so that I can get the other perspective to this story. it was such a hoot to chat with Joshilyn about her blog and her books. I can see why they are so entertaining.

  2. This sounds like such an interesting read. The more reviews I see the more I want to read it 🙂 Great review.

  3. I’ve seen this book around, and read other reviews, but had to tell you that you have a great writing style. Your review was really well done.

    1. I can’t wait to read Gods in Alabama as a companion to this book. It seems that it will give a bit of a different perspective than Backseat Saints.

  4. This sounds like an interesting read. Every time I see that cover though, I’m freaked out. 🙂 There’s something about it that weirds me.

    1. It is a strange cover. it is relevant to something about the books but I remember having misgivings about it and thinking I didn’t know exactly what was going on in the cover.

  5. This one really intrigues me for some reason so I am glad you liked it! Maybe it’s because I want to figure out why she is holding her hair in hand? I don’t know but your review made me think it’s worth reading to find out 🙂

    1. I had no idea what was going on with the cover. I think once you read the first sentence, you definitely want to go further.

      1. I’ve only ever read The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and really liked it. I didn’t realize Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints were companion novels! Does it matter which you read first?

        1. I think that it doesn’t matter much. The characters in both novels cone from the same town and know some people in common. I think there is one pivotal event even which are explored in both, but the characters have different perspectives and takeaways. I really want to read it and see the other side.

  6. I loved Between Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and was so eager to read this one. It appears that the publishers just tried to get Ms. Jackson to pump out something – anything while she was on a bit of a roll.
    The ‘heroine’ is so stupid. Most women fleeing an abusive marriage don’t take a detour with the precious few dollars they posess- to try to hook up with some dimwitted former boyfriend. It just doesn’t make sense, and stretched whatever credibility the author had, making the remainder of the novel a dull read. The rest of the characters are so lifeless. I couldn’t wait to finish it. It’s hard to say whether I’ll read this author again.