Thursday, November 18, 2010

Backseat Saints - Joshilyn Jackson (Audio)


First there was Gods in Alabama, a novel that I believe has the best opening line EVER. A true example of Southern fiction at its finest, with all the trimmings. Cussin', shootin', drinkin', fightin' and lots of childhood dysfunction and humor to cover up the tears. Born from this story was the minor character of Rose Mae Lolly, an ethereal, mysterious girl with a violent past. Jackson is back again to tell the story of Rose Mae.

Synopsis: Rose Mae thought she was starting a new life when she ran away from Fruiton Alabama, where she was abandoned by her mother and beaten to a pulp by her angry, alcoholic father. Unfortunately, Rose Mae is one of those women who attracts violence, and marries an abusive husband. After years of trips to the ER, Rose Mae is warned by a gypsy that she must act now or she will end up in the morgue. So Rose Mae grabs her fat, three-legged dog, her granddaddy's gun, and runs like hell.

Rose Mae first stops in Fruiton, to find her old boyfriend Jim Beverly, who disappeared her senior year in high school (if you read Gods in Alabama, you know how that turns out). She also confronts her withered father, trying to find closure from all those healed bruises. From there she embarks on a journey to find her mother in California, hoping to also escape a husband she knows is going to try to hunt her down and kill her.

My thoughts: I would read Joshilyn Jackson any day, anywhere, anytime, on a train, on a plane, with a fox, in a box. On the surface, she might qualify as women's fiction, or southern fiction, but there is really alot more going on here. In this particular story, I went through a variety of emotions as Rose Mae traveled on her journey of self-discovery. Pity at her battered life. Confusion at the internal battle between the persona of Ro Grandee and Rose Mae Lolly, then when she assumed the completely new identity of Ivey Rose. Does she even have all her marbles? Would I blame her if she didn't? Is she delusional to take off across the country to find a mother she hasn't seen since she was 8?

The important thing to note with Jackson is that even though her stories contain plots that have been run into the ground, everything you read feels fresh and new. Plus she is funny HELL. Laughing at one's misadventures in life is the southern way, after all.

If I were to compare this book with Gods in Alabama, though, I would have to vote for Gods. It seemed to have better flow. Backseat Saints seemed a little fragmented, with sharp turns in the plot that left threads hanging. The resolution of the story was predictable as well, but aren't all domestic abuse cases? These are minor complaints, though, and didn't diminish the fun ride.

A few words about the audio production: Unlike Gods in Alabama, this book was narrated by Jackson herself. Normally, this is not a good idea. There are professionals out there that do these things for a living. But with Jackson? If she ever decided to quit writing (praise the Lord, no!) she could always fall back on audiobook narration to pay her bills. She is delightful. Her tiny, melodic little southern voice personified Rose Mae. I hope she decides to narrate all of her books in the future.

4 out of 5 stars


14 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't read any Joshilyn Jackson, but I have a copy of Gods in Alabama on my shelf. I love the idea of reading her in a box with a fox!! I don't think I'll do that, but I'll try to read Gods in Alabama in 2011.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

As you know, I loved God in Alabama, and it gave me a new respect for the author's ability to show all sides to characters that might be treated stereotypically by other authors. I wasn't crazy about Rose Mae in Gods, but I am crazy about the author, and willing to read any of her books!

Zibilee said...

I haven't read either of these books, but I did pick this one up at SIBA, and am looking forward to grabbing Gods in Alabama and starting there. It sounds like this book covered a lot of ground, and that it did it in a pretty excellent way. I am so glad that you loved it, and now I am looking forward to it too! I will have to let you know what I think, and I will admit that that cover is striking to me for some reason.

marthalama said...

Joshilyn Jackson has been on my list for a while. I just ordered the audio of Backseat Saints, now I'm so glad I did. I can't wait to hear it.

Carrie K. said...

I fell in love with her work - and her voice - while listening to The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, which she also reads. She's on my list of authors I must read more of.

bermudaonion said...

I'm a big fan of Joshilyn Jackson's work, so I agree with you. Gods is my favorite as well and that opening line is the best. Jackson has a background in theater, so I'm not surprised she does a great job reading her book.

Stephanie said...

Great review! I haven't read either of these books yet but after reading your review I know that I really need too!

Julie P. said...

I bet these would be a treat on audio. I'm a big fans of hers.

Nise' said...

I just finished this one too! Now I want to rush out and get Gods in Alabama!

Kathleen said...

Great review. I'm convinced that I should read it!

Beth F said...

I haven't listened to this one . . . yet . . . but she narrated Between, Georgia and did a fabulous job. She is one of the very few authors who can narrate their own books.

Jenners said...

I'm listening to this right now, and I think she is doing a fantastic job narrating it. She makes the character come alive ... and she is so darn funny. I'm early on still .. as I'm a "slow" audiobook listener but I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Now I want to read "Gods In Alabama." Maybe I should have read that one first.

Alice Teh said...

Oh yes, call me crazy, but that's what I like about Southern fiction too. I can't wait to experience Alabama for myself when I'm there in January next year.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I loved this audio! I haven't yet read GODS IN ALABAMA, but everyone says I'll like it even more.

Did you read the print or audio edition of GODS?