Backseat Saints

I was taken in by the cover – curvy young woman in a red dress holding a long black braid in her hand.  I was taken in by the book flap – mother runs away; daughter follows. I was taken in by the sweet Southern references.  I was deceived.  This was not the light summer read I had expected.  Joshilyn Jackson exposes abuse and all its consequences on personal and family lives in Backseat Saints, and left me feeling a little raw after reading it.

After her mother leaves, when Rose was eight years old, Rose becomes the substitute target for her father’s beatings.  She grows up feisty, able to shoot a gun, and looking for love in all the wrong places.  After running away at eighteen, and suffering through a series of bad men, she marries Thom, a jealous Texan, who continues the battering and mental abuse she has come to expect.

Jackson exposes the secret side of abuse through the mental negotiations that Rose has with herself – her sweet submissive Southern belle vs. her tough Alabama street-wise handler.  The saints offer another perspective.  Growing up Catholic, Rose has a litany of saints connected to various missions: pray to St. Bartholomew for sports, St. Rita for marriage, St. Roch for dogs  – a saint for every challenge.  The saints, though not very effective, appear beside her in moments of extreme stress to offer support.

After a dire warning from a gypsy in an airport terminal, Rose decides to kill her husband.  She shoots her dog by mistake instead; he survives  – sad but the strange comic relief that Jackson offers throughout the story.  Rose’s wry comments and her quick wit sprinkle the horror.  Eventually, after an almost fatal beating that lands her in the hospital, Rose plans her escape.

But running away from an abusive, vindictive husband is not easy, and Jackson focuses on abused women’s lack of money and means to get away as well as the vacillating emotions that draw them back again and again.  Even the saints can’t help Rose, and all seems lost – until she decides to find her mother.

Rose’s pilgrimage for peace has her looking for her high school boyfriend and her father in a desperate attempt for protection from her husband.  When she is reunited with her mother, it would seem a relief, but Jackson has more to say – this time on mother/daughter relationships.

The ending is a surprise, so I will not spoil it for you.  I read Backseat Saints quickly, happy to get to the end.  One of those books that’s good for you to read; my rating ✓✓✓.
But now I really need some summer fluff to read.

Rating System:

  • ✓✓✓✓✓ -Don’t miss it!  Hope you like it as much as I did.

  • ✓✓✓✓ – You should read it (my opinion anyway)
  • ✓✓✓ – Worth a try – at least to the first 50 pages

  • ✓✓ –  You might need some chocolate to get you through

  • – Watch TV instead
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4 thoughts on “Backseat Saints

  1. Kristen

    I would not say they are brutal. My favorite of her books thus far is _Between, Georgia_. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Jackson’s since reading _gods in Alabama_ and have followed her through _Between, Georgia_, _The Girl Who Stopped Swimming_, and _Backseat Saints_. I’m looking forward to her next book. Each book does have some hard hard things that happen – no doubt about that, but I like them all and have re-read (and listened to the audiobooks – all of which are read by Ms. Jackson except for _gods_) a few of them already and truly enjoy them.

    1. RFW Post author

      I like audio books read by the author – thanks for the tip. Maybe I’ll listen to her next one.

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