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