Friday, November 19, 2010
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Rose Mae Lolly is defined by one central fact. When she was eight, she went to school one morning and returned to find that her mother had left. She left to escape the beatings and abuse of her husband, but left Rose Mae to take her place as the target of her father's drunken rages. Rose Mae grew up knowing several things. She knew how to flirt with men and get under their skin. She knew the attraction of a controlling man. And she knew she was getting out of her little Alabama town as fast as she could.
Fast forward fifteen years and Rose Mae Lolly has transformed into Ro Grandee. Ro is the wife of Tom Grandee, a handsome man who most women would be attracted to, but who happens to be the man who fits the pattern Ro grew up with. He controls her every move and beats her when she slips up. Ro tries to fit the role of the perfect housewife, making the usual excuses of the beatings being her fault, or that if she tries hard enough to please Tom, he'll learn to control his temper.
A chance meeting at the local airport changes Ro's life. She is approached by a gypsy, who offers to tell her fortune. She tells Ro that she is in a battle to the death with Tom, and it will be her or him. If she stays Tom will kill her eventually. If she flees, he will come after her. As Ro thinks about this in the days afterward, several things become clear. The gypsy wasn't just a happenstance encounter; this was her long-departed mother who recognizes her life patterns in Ro's choices. She also realises that her mother is right; if she doesn't leave Tom, she is dead.
Hitting the road with her pet dog and a new identity, Rose Mae returns for the first time in years to the town where she grew up. After laying some ghosts there, she begins to have an idea where her mother can be found, and takes off for her new home, hoping to find refuge. After finding her, mother and daughter must rebond and answer the hard questions of why they are each drawn to dangerous men and the nature of love.
Joshily Jackson has written an incredible novel that explores the lives of abused women and shows how their minds work to the outside world. Settings are detailed and recognizable, and the characters are memorable. Rose Mae Lolly will quickly become a favorite of the reader and they will cheer her on in her attempt to reconcile her early life with her adult one. This book is recommended for readers interested in what makes people act in ways that seem outside the range of normal understanding.