Backseat Saints **** by Joshilyn Jackson
I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.
Rose Mae Lolley, a minor character from gods in Alabama is resurrected and returns in this story that takes off like a shot.
Rose Mae, a survivor of a motherless childhood and an abusive father, is used to reinventing herself. Fleeing from her childhood home in Alabama, she is reincarnated in Texas, as Mrs. Ro Grandee, Thom’s “cool mouthed wife whose tongue would not melt butter”. Her locale and her name may have changed, but now she has traded her father’s punches for her husband’s. Ro is by turns fierce, funny, and flawed. Trying to avoid a fate of death by marriage~ she flees again with her pawpy’s ancient .45 and her three-legged dog, Gretel. Prepare yourself for a roller coaster ride of a story that is highly entertaining~ with twists and turns while Ro/Rose Mae tries to survive her bruises & blows the best way she knows how. . .with her wits, a gun, and some steamy sex.
Jackson has crafted a “riveting read that simply flies off the page with prose as luscious as sweet tea and as spicy as Texas chili. . .”
“The next thing I knew, I was zooming east down Highway 40 toward home, praying harder than I had ever prayed in my whole life. I called every saint it seemed might do a lick of good. I called them loud, demanding out intervention with the kind of flailing desperation that can rise when even hope has left.”
“Francis, patron of cars and drivers, answered first. He was in the car with me. I could hear him breathing easy in the seat behind me. Then Michael took the seat beside Francis. He’d come to close the eyes of his policemen, making their radar guns heavy in their hands, sending them for coffee at any Dunkin’ Donuts that took them off my path.”
“I recognized Rose Mae, working to save my ass while Ro Grandee, professional nice girl and dedicated victim, hunched and writhed in a lathery panic. Rose knew to press the cool bottle to my eyes to take the swelling down and ease the red. When next I saw Thom Grandee, I could not look like I’d been crying.”
Ro Grandee’s weapons of survival:
“A clean home, good gun sales, better meat loaf, best sex.”
I didn’t have to look very hard for food references in this book, which made Food for Thought easy. Ro is adept at using her culinary skills as her arsenal~ to keep Thom happy and his fists from flying.
“On Wednesday, Thom looked down at the meat loaf on his plate with one lip curling, as if I’d served up possum sushi. It was a beautiful meat loaf, too, made with half ground pork and lots of sage like his mother’s, only I didn’t overcook mine until it tasted like a chunk of mummy.”
Thom is about to come unhinged since he was anticipating chicken for dinner. Compliant Ro offers to make chicken instead while he watches TV, suggesting he take meat loaf sandwiches to work for the week. Using Ro’s suggestion, I thought I would do the same~ My husband is a fan of meat loaf while I am NOT, but I thought I could add some burger toppings to “mask” the meat loaf for me :-)
Ranch Dressing, Monterey Jack Cheese, Dill Pickle Stackers & Crispy Fried Onions
Carmelized Onion, Provolone & Mushroom
Mozzarella, Basil & Sundried Tomato/ Red Pepper Pesto on Asiago Cheese Flatbread~ the favorite!
Barbecue Sauce, Bacon, Monterey Jack/Cheddar & Sweet Pickle
The verdict? I can eat meat loaf this way :-)
Thom’s parents, who own a gun shop where Ro & Thom both work, are less than thrilled to have a Catholic for a daughter-in-law:
“Charlotte, who’d been born and raised in a border town, believed it was the excessive Catholic breeding of Mexicans that was wrecking Texas. Joe was a more practical racist, who understood that without illegal immigrants he might have to pay a decent wage to get his yard done.”
“The church had me till I was eight. It’s easier on everyone if I go to y’all’s church on Sundays, what with your folks acting like incense and praying to saints is straight up witchcraft. But you don’t stop being Catholic because you stop going to mass. I may be in your church, Thom, but don’t ever think I’m of it.”
In addition to a racist and a bigot, Joe is a bit of a pervert:
I went with another cornbread reference, though not nearly as colorful~ for my recipe:
Broccoli Cheddar Cornbread, recipe here.
This version of this recipe linked above, calls for making this cornbread as muffins. You can also bake it in an 8 x 8 pan (or 8 x 12 if you like your cornbread a little drier, like my husband does). Adjust your cooking time to 30 minutes. Since this is a great side with spicy Texas Chili, I thought this would be appropriate :-)
“I could only make that awful bird noise again, that whooping. I recognized that sound. It was the sound of me not breathing. Not breathing was a hazy place, and pain was a box of kittens who had curled up all around me. I could feel warm, furry pockets of them pressed into my ribs and back and hips and belly where his fists had touched. Still more nested in my hair and wrapped around one shoulder like a stole.”
“I fell down stairs,” becomes Ro’s refrain. The ER nurse that has treated her before, urges her to let her call the police. Still denying it, Ro tells her, “Okay. Have them arrest the stairs.”
“An hour-long blink later, and Thom was there, holding a huge bright spray of wildflowers. His nose was swollen, and I felt instantly, savagely pleased. He looked at me with sorry, bad-dog eyes, ready to pet his Ro, as if she was still spread thick as putty over Rose Mae. He should have known better. We’d been married five years. I wondered how he could look at me, limp in my hospital bed, and not see he’d beaten his girl clean off me. I was Rose Mae Lolley, almost alone in a hospital bed, waiting to be released.”
“The hole in my own slivered rib had stabbed into my lung resealed itself. The hospital pulled my pretty morphine tube, and I started a new, less intense romance with Percocet.”
“I wanted none of Ro’s things touching me, and the long hair my husband loved felt like a most offensive bit of Ro-ness. I strode to the kitchen and yanked my meat shears out of the butcher-block knife rack on the counter.”
“The braided cable of hair looked like a long, glossy pet that had coiled up at my feet. It was sleek and dark, more than a foot long, so thick I doubted I could get my finger and thumb wrapped all the way around it. I looked down at it and felt no remorse. I felt not connection to it at all. It was nothing more than a brown black rope that Thom could damn well never hang me from again.”
“Ro Grandee was harder to peel off myself than leprosy.”
“Daddy had raised me in the house my mother had abandoned, drinking until his vision blurred too much to focus on all the bare spaces where my mother wasn’t standing. He drank so much, some days he had to furrow up his brow and squint to aim his fist proper at me.”
“My nicer memories–shooting with him, piggyback rides, pushes on the tire swing–were buried under the ten years after my mother left us. He’d beaten any chance at auld lang syne right out of me.”
“At night, I’d lie in bed and their angry voices would come through the thin walls, followed by the thump and clatter of his hands meeting her body in hard ways. I’d hear an open-handed slap crack like a distant rifle shot, hear my mother’s body banging into the walls. I’d roll out of bed and creep under it like Gretel in a thunderstorm waiting it out.”
“I’d been someone else, before my mother left. A regular girl, maybe like Bill’s Bunny. Jim Beverly and I had not been friends then. There was nothing in that girl to draw him. I didn’t remember her very well. My mother had left her, so I had left her too, not wanting to be a thing whose own mother couldn’t love her. I didn’t know her, but my mother must remember her and could help me remember, too. If I could abandon Rose Mae Lolley here, the way I’d left Ro Grandee back in Texas, I could start fresh.”
Ro’s mother accuses her of loving her father:
“I shake my head at her, incredulous. ‘Of course I did. I was eight. I loved him when I was nine, too, and he dislocated my shoulder. What other daddy did I have? I didn’t even know there were other kinds.”
Last but not least, dessert~
It seems only appropriate that my recipes for the Cornbread & Lemon Chess Pie came from Southern Living for this Edible Review :-)
This pie was easy & good~ like a giant lemon bar! You can find the recipe here.
I thought it was appropriate to end with this YouTube video of Joshilyn Jackson on her book tour~ titled Eating California. I love her description of the roses & the comparison to New Orleans~ exactly why I read her books~ bull’s-eye accuracy that always makes me smile :-)