23 April 2011

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Flap Copy: "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, teenage 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 exhilerating, 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."

I came into this book with high hopes - I've loved Jackson's previous novels and was looking forward to another gripping story. I was not disappointed. From the start, the plot grabs you, while Jackson's voice sparkles with wit even in the face of some serious subjects.

Rose Mae, a good Southern Catholic girl, is the main character, though her alter-egos Mrs. Ro Grandee and Ivy Rose Wheeler play equally into the movement of the plot. Rose Mae was abandoned by her mother and left to her abusive, alcoholic father. Ro is Thom Grandee's beautiful, perfect punching bag of a wife. Ivy Rose has reached the end of her tether, and is running both from her husband and from her past. Rose, like most people, lives as a complex mix of all three and constantly seeks some order in her mind and in her life.

I think Jackson has a gift for developing characters in such a way that draws the reader in, post-reading, makes the characters difficult to shake. Often stories of abuse can seem a little tired or predictable - Jackson took a difficult topic and gave it such an appealing, human voice that I was audibly rooting for her as I read. I highly recommend this book, 4 stars!

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