Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review: Backseat Saints

I've had Backseat Saints on my TBR list for quite awhile, so it jumped out at me as I was browsing the library stacks. But I hesitated, thinking "Didn't I not really like the last Joshilyn Jackson book I read?" Actually, I remembered being faintly irritated with the last one I read.

But I checked it out anyway and spent a few days or a week in the crazy world of Rose Mae Lolley, abandoned by her mother and abused by men. I noticed that the reviewers on give this book 5 stars over and over again, so obviously there is something wrong with me. I just could not appreciate this novel. It was too snappy for me. I couldn't believe the character of Rose Mae Lolley—she didn't make any sense to me. Oh, I know. That was probably the point of the book in some way, but it just didn't all come together for me.

And I've got a name thing going on again with this book, as I did with The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. Rose Mae goes between that name (her given) and Ro (her current). In other words, in the past she is Rose Mae, and in the present she is Ro. Except sometimes she is Ro with Rose Mae trying to get through to the surface. So when she tries to shoot her husband, is she Ro or Rose Mae? I understand what the author was trying to do (bad girl self vs. good girl self); it just didn't work for me. Something was missing—some vital connection. Maybe, for me, the disconnect was in the writing.

Here's the thing: I am a poet. I love books that love and caress the art of writing, that can blow me away with a combination of words or make me ache with something indescribable. I tend toward loving books that are quieter and more thoughtful. Backseat Saints deals with a terrible subject—spousal abuse—and the abuse scenes are very well written. But something didn't connect for me between the powerful abuse scenes and Ro Grandee's snappy comebacks. I guess I wanted her to think more. I couldn't feel her enough.

This isn't a rousing endorsement of the book. Maybe you will like it, but there was too much going on in it for me. A mother who shows back up as a fortune teller in an airport, various saints who appear suddently in the middle of the book, sweet old boyfriends who turn out to be abusers as well, and a whole lot of make-up sex. Too much going on, too fast-paced, too much disconnection. But again, I am apparently the only person in the reading world who doesn't think this is an amazing book. So read it for yourself. The end.

1 comment:

Eesti said...

This was a tough book for me. I like to lose myself in books, and whether the stories are happy or sad, there *needs* to be somewhere in the book that's a "safe" spot for the reader to perch and take notice of all the action. A tiny vine of hope. Just *something* to cling to. There wasn't anything like that in this book.
Rose Mae Lolly is torn between her incredibly abusive husband and his ignorant and controlling family, and the strange warning she received from a tarot reader at the airport, who urged her to GET OUT. In her quest to find a safe way to make her escape, she dwells on her "former life, growing up in a town called Fruition, tended to by an incredibly abusive father.