Title: Backseat Saints
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Narrator: Joshilyn Jackson
Audiobook Length: 12 hours, 43 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Rose Mae Lolley’s mother disappeared when she was eight, leaving Rose with a heap of old novels and a taste for dangerous men. Now, as demure Mrs. Ro Grandee, she’s living the very life her mother abandoned. She’s all but forgotten the girl she used to be-teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol-until an airport gypsy warns Rose it’s time to find her way back to that brave, tough girl . . . or else. Armed with only her wit, her pawpy’s ancient .45, and her dog Fat Gretel, Rose Mae hightails it out of Texas, running from a man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did.”
Thoughts: Does anyone ever know who we truly are? Do we even know? It is into this theme the reader descends as s/he is immersed in Joshilyn Jackson’s Backseat Saints. As Rose Mae/Ro flees her marriage and attempts to set out on her own, she must ultimately uncover who she is and why she keeps hiding before she can ever hope to be free.
Rose Mae and Ro are two facets of the same person, born out of necessity as a coping mechanism to survive abusive relationships. However, these personas have been adopted for so long that Rose Mae has no idea of her likes, dislikes, hobbies, true personality, and everything else that sets one person apart from another. In a way, one could argue that she suffers from multiple personality disorder because each persona is buried so deeply when the other is in control. From the reader’s perspective, it is an interesting dichotomy because the reader does not understand why Ro would have such difficulties in wanting to leave her abusive husband when Rose Mae is willing to do just about anything to win her freedom. That the two personalities co-exist is proof of the deep-seated damage wrought on a victim of an abusive relationship.
Backseat Saints is as much a story about mother/daughter relationships as it is about spousal/parental abuse. It is a surprise meeting with her long-lost mother that starts Ro down the path of taking her first step towards freedom. Each progressive step closer to freedom is one step closer to understanding her mother’s actions that distant childhood day when she mysteriously disappeared, never to return. For Rose Mae to discover her true nature, she must come to terms with the feelings and emotional damage brought on by her mother’s abandonment.
As the narrator and author, Joshilyn Jackson is uniquely positioned to give us Rose Mae/Ro’s true voice. She easily distinguishes between the two personas through her words and inflections. As she embodies Rose Mae, the terror, fear, confusion, and even sense of empowerment that Rose Mae feels becomes what the reader feels. The pacing of the narration is superb, and Ms. Jackson’s own Southern accent adds to the authentic feel of the entire story. Normally, authors are not the best narrators for their stories, but in this case, Ms. Jackson is more than up to the challenge.
Backseat Saints is all about a journey – a journey of one young woman as she searches for freedom, truth and understanding against a history of pain and neglect. Ms. Jackson lightens the depressing, heavy themes with humor and her trademark wit without trivializing or mocking them. Rose Mae/Ro is an endearing character, as some of her ideas are what can only be described as hare-brained. Yet, the serious scenes have the necessary gravitas that legitimizes them and gives them their emotional power. It is a bit like Rose Mae/Ro herself. Backseat Saints has an added complexity created by its multiple themes, fleshing out a story and a character that would have been horribly clichéd and one-dimensional without them. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that shines a spotlight on damaging relationships and the need for one’s own personal journey of discovery.