Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Published by Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette
Ro Grandee is trapped in a passionate, but incredibly abusive, marriage to a man with strong ties to his family and their town in rural Texas. When she receives a premonition from a fortune-teller that her husband, Tom, is going to kill her, she decides to bring back the “old” Ro – real self, the one she’s hidden since childhood, named Rose Mae Lolly – and kill him before he can get to her. After her dreadful plan fails, Rose Mae escapes to her hometown of Fruiton, Alabama, on the quest for answers about her own past, growing up with an abusive father, and about the mother who abandoned her when she was a young girl. Her journey is about more than her past, though, as she’s truly on the run from sure death at the hands of Tom, and she must figure out a way to save herself in this process.
I’m almost finished reading Joshilyn Jackson’s books (*sob*, and she better write another one soon), and each time I read/listen to one of her novels I have a similar experience of feeling swept away by the story, falling in love with the main character, and going on a journey that only Jackson is capable of taking me on.
As is customary for Joshilyn Jackson, this story does not shy away from difficult topics. In this case, Ro is in a truly abusive marriage, one that lands her in the hospital on more than one occasion. But Jackson is realistic about the situation and shows how these types of relationships are not so black and white as outsiders maybe think they are – Ro is tied to this man financially, but more than that, she does love him. She has had so many good times with him that she can’t imagine letting those go. Plus, she experienced abuse as a child by her own father, so it is difficult for her to comprehend a loving relationship that does not include abuse. It’s not the easiest of topics to handle, domestic violence, but Jackson does it delicately and not without humor. It’s amazing how she has the ability to do that in the perfect way.
I loved Ro/Rose Mae and was happy to see a character from a previous book, Arlene Fleet, appear in this one too. Rose Mae was a minor character in one of Jackson’s previous novels, and I loved seeing that story continue somewhat here. It’s a great experience for the reader when an author takes a minor character who the reader barely gets to know (but can definitely form an opinion on) and turns them into a real person who the reader can root for, care about, and ultimately feel connected to. That was the exact experience I had here with Ro and I loved every second of it. I thought she was strong, ballsy, smart, but sadly trapped by her choices and circumstances, and I loved everything about her. And I ended the book feeling proud of how far she’d come and what she’d accomplished in her journey.
The audio of Backseat Saints, like most of Jackson’s novels, was narrated by Joshilyn Jackson herself and of course she does a beautiful job. I was able to relax and enjoy her wonderful prose and fully sink into this story and these characters because her narration is absolutely perfect. For those of you not familiar with her work, her narration in the audios is absolutely the way to go. It is fantastic and not to be missed.
Backseat Saints is yet another great Joshilyn Jackson novel, and the audio is excellent as Jackson narrates it herself. I cannot recommend her novels enough and this is just one more to add to that list. I only have one more of hers to read before I start begging and pleading for the universe to help her finish another novel. She’s just wonderful.