Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

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 Saintsalong 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.


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