Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Hardcover, 336 pages
Grand Central Publishing (June 8, 2010)

Review Copy received from Hachette Book Group for participation in the Manic Mommies Book Club

Summary from the author's website:
Ro Grandee is the perfect Texas housewife. She's determined to be nothing like her long-missing mother, the one who left her with only a heap of old novels and her father's fists for company, so Ro keeps quiet and takes her husband's punches like a lady. But Ro wasn't always this way. Underneath her pastel skirts and hidden bruises lies Rose Mae Lolley, teenaged spitfire, Alabama heartbreaker, and a crack shot with a pistol. Rose Mae is resurrected when a gypsy's tarot cards foretell doom for dutiful Ro: her handsome husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Armed with only her wit, her pawpy's ancient .45, and her dog Fat Gretel, Rose Mae hightails it out of Texas. In a journey that is by turns harrowing and exhilarating, she uncovers long buried truths about her family and herself, running from the man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did.
My Thoughts:
First, I am admitting that when I first saw the title of the book I inferred that "backseat" would have something to do with action that a teenager might see in a backseat... And I was wrong.

Backseat Saints was an entertaining and thought-provoking book and I really, really liked it.  I have been fortunate to have read so many books this year that have strong and believable characters, and this book ranks right up there at the top.  The story of Ro Grandee could have easily been a flat, predictable tale of the battered wife - suffering the blows and one day deciding that she wasn't going to take it any more.  Instead Joshilyn Jackson weaves in Ro's history to give the story a different direction and gives Ro a different path to choose.  Predictable, this story was not - I was amazed by the skillful ending.

I have not read other novels by Joshilyn Jackson, but I am a new fan.

Thanks so much to Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read Backseat Saints.

Blog Note: I am an Amazon Associate. I will make a small profit if you purchase a book after following one of the links in this post. Profits will be used to support giveaways and site maintenance.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Book Review: Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
Paperback, 272 Pages
Harper Perennial (August 3, 2010)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my participation in the TLC Book Tour.

Summary from the author's website:
With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry -- lonely, friendless, not too good at sports -- spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele -- a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others -- especially those we love -- above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonement and Nick Hornby's About a Boy, Joyce Maynard tells a story of love, sexual passion, painful adolescence, and devastating betrayal as seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy -- and the man he later becomes -- looking back on the events of a single long, hot, and life-altering weekend.
My Thoughts:
Joyce Maynard created an extremely intriguing book in Labor Day.  The story line was unlike anything that I had read before. Each of the characters were strong and the way that the author was able to recreate the thoughts of a 13 year old boy was quite impressive. 

Henry's mother, while strange and wounded, created an interesting life for Henry.  I think that she taught Henry about love an acceptance in an unconventional way.  Frank's character also taught Henry things that he needed to learn as a growing boy and it seemed that it helped Henry to be a stronger person.  Henry was lacking so many things in his life before Frank arrived - his relationship with his own father and his mother's hermit-like life let Henry be open to what Frank had to teach him.  Labor Day really worked as a coming of age story.

The plot of the book did require me to suspend a bit of reality and attempt to block thoughts on what I would have done in Henry or Adele's situation.  The uniqueness of the story and the strength of the characters that Maynard created made that much easier.  I enjoyed Labor Day very much and recommend it to fiction lovers drawn to complex family stories, and young people navigating the challenges of growing up.

Thanks so much to Trish and TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Labor Day!

Please take an opportunity to check out these additional stops on the TLC Book Tour for Labor Day:
Thursday, July 22nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Monday, July 26th: Café of Dreams
Wednesday, July 28th: Rundpinne
Monday, August 2nd: Book Chatter
Tuesday, August 3rd: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Wednesday, August 4th: excess baggage
Friday, August 6th: Stiletto Storytime
Monday, August 9th: Alison’s Book Marks
Tuesday, August 10th: Lisa’s Yarns
Wednesday, August 11th: Bookstack
Thursday, August 12th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness

For more on Joyce Maynard, please listen into her interview on Blog Talk Radio with Book Club Girl on August 30th at 7:00pm ET. 

Blog Note: I am an Amazon Associate. I will make a small profit if you purchase a book after following one of the links in this post. Profits will be used to support giveaways and site maintenance.