Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review #51: BACKSEAT SAINTS (audiobook) by Joshilyn Jackson

read by the author

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Category: Fiction
Format: Audio Book
Subformat: CD (Audio)
Edition: Unabridged
Publish Date: 6/8/2010
Price: $34.98/$41.98
ISBN: 9781607882220
Pages: 0

Description (from the publisher):
Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.

BACKSEAT SAINTS will dazzle readers with a fresh and heartwrenching portrayal of the lengths a mother will go to right the wrongs she's created, and how far a daughter will go to escape the demands of forgiveness. With the seed of a minor character from her popular best-seller, GODS IN ALABAMA, Jackson has built a whole new story full of her trademark sly wit, endearingly off-kilter characters, and utterly riveting plot twists.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Supernova Stars - Flawless

My Thoughts:
Listening to BACKSEAT SAINTS was the most perfect audiobook experience. Beautifully read by the author, employing a variety of spot-on accents, the story of Rose Mae Lolley fighting for her survival is riveting. I tried to restrict my listening to my daily commutes, but it was impossible. First, Rose Mae spoiled me for any print book I tried to read. I abandoned book after book because her voice was so strong, so insistent, that she overshadowed any other characters I attempted to befriend. Then I found myself unwilling to leave my car on arrival at either work or home. I just wanted to keep on listening as Rose Mae mined her own past in an attempt to carve out a new present and hopefully, a future. Finally, I just gave up on everything else and listened to the story every chance I could get, bringing discs inside to listen to in the evenings as I lay in bed in the dark and back out to the car for the ride into work in the morning. Lunch breaks were spent eating sandwiches in my passenger seat, listening as Joshilyn Jackson brought Rose Mae to life -- as precarious as that life may be.

As the story opens, Rose Mae, deep into her alter ego of Mrs. Ro Grandee, wife of the oldest son of a prominent Amarillo family, is contemplating the murder of her husband, Thom. She's convinced that after 5 years of an abusive marriage, it has come down to either him or her. The narrative meanders back and forth between Rose Mae's childhood, marred by the abandonment of her mother and the abuse of her father, and the years of her marriage, building the tension brick by brick and filling in the gaps with a mortar of enlightening anecdotes. Without ever justifying Thom's abusive behavior, or even Rose Mae's many bad choices, the author illuminates the complexity of violent domestic relationships and how its effects ripple out through generations. Rose Mae begins to question her own complicity as she struggles to understand and exorcise what she considers a bad seed deep within her. It's an absolutely fascinating account of an abused woman grappling with self-awareness and empowerment.

In Jackson's earlier novel, GODS IN ALABAMA, Rose Mae Lolley was a minor character. There is some crossover of other characters as well. I hadn't read GODS. . ., and I'm actually glad that I hadn't. I didn't have any preconceived opinions about characters who appear in both novels, and that heightened the experience for me -- I didn't know what to expect; I didn't know if Rose Mae's descriptions of them were accurate or if they were distorted by her romanticism or rage. I do have a copy of GODS. . . on order, and I can't wait to hear it, though I find it hard to believe it will have as powerful an impact as BACKSEAT SAINTS.

If you're not a fan of audiobooks, you might want to make an exception for BACKSEAT SAINTS. First of all, Jackson does a stunning job with a variety of accents and personalities -- she is a trained actor. She gives Rose Mae a charming and endearing voice which often belies the horror of the scenes she is describing. It can be difficult to listen to the descriptions of a woman being beaten, and I often found myself gnawing on my own knuckles. Frankly, I don't know if I would have been able to read some of the scenes -- it would have been too easy to just skip over them. However, by listening to this story rather than reading it, I was able to hear what I otherwise may have chosen not to see. 

I strongly recommend BACKSEAT SAINTS. It's breathtaking and flawless.

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for audiobook copies. Click here to enter.  (Comments on this review post will not be considered entries.)

Click here to listen to an excerpt.

Click here to access the Reading Group Guide.

Click here to visit the author's website.

About the author (from the publisher):
Joshilyn Jackson, a native of the Deep South, has worked as an actor and an award-winning teacher, and is now a writer and a mother of two. She is the author of GODS IN ALABAMA; BETWEEN, GEORGIA; and THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING. Jackson lives with her husband and children outside of Atlanta. Visit her at


Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I loved it too, and did not expect to! Great review Gwen

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book but didn't experience the audio version. I've met Joshilyn Jackson and I can imagine she would be a great reader for this with her Southern accent and her background in theater.

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I read this and loved it. It was my first Joshilyn Jackson and now I want to read more of her books!

my review:

Just Mom said...

I'm so glad to hear how much you liked it - can't wait to get it started!

Tina said...

I hear you about good audio books spoiling it for reading. I really look forward to this one. I have already heard "Gods in Alabama" and want to find out more about Rose. Terrific review.

Lisa said...

I'll be the accents really did bring this one to another level. I had a hard time with Ro going to find Jim; but I did think Jackson did a great job of tackling a complicated issue.

Alyce said...

I usually skip books with a lot of abuse, or I skip the sections (as you said, when you're reading it's easier to do). With such a strong recommendation though I will have to consider giving this one a try.

Zibilee said...

/so very, very cool that you found this audiobook so awesome! I might have to try the audio version of this after hearing your praise of it. Great review!