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The Shelf: Joshilyn Jackson


The Shelf: Joshilyn Jackson

Teresa WeaverComments

Joshilyn Jackson

“It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband.” Joshilyn Jackson catapults into her fourth novel, Backseat Saints (Grand Central Publishing, $24.99), in typical all-out style, leaving more subtle approaches for less self-assured writers. As in her previous novels—Gods in Alabama, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and Between, Georgia—Jackson practically dares you to stop reading from the very first sentence. Her cleverly twisted mix of comedy, mystery, and new Southern Gothic is different in every book and yet comfortably familiar. Her protagonist in Backseat Saints, Rose Mae Lolley, was a minor character in Gods in Alabama. Rose returns now with a troubled past—strewn with bad boys and worse men—and a desperate present. Indeed, the gypsy tells her, Rose has no future whatsoever unless she takes care of her viciously abusive husband before he takes care of her. (That the airport gypsy is soon revealed to be Rose’s long-lost mother is an unlikely misstep in a well-plotted, compulsively readable book.) The story, told through Rose’s eyes, includes wry humor but also gut-wrenching depictions of domestic violence and the fear—and wary freedom—that follows leaving that situation. “I pointed the Buick east, and I took all fifteen hours of driving straight up, neat, like a shot of Jack,” Jackson writes as Rose. “The wind was behind me, and I felt it as wolf breath, hot and stinking of old meat, raising the hairs on the back of my neck.”

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Photograph by Herman Estevez

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