I didn't realize when I read Backseat Saints that its characters tied back to another book. I've been on a Joshilyn Jackson reading jag and have read her books at random. Backseat was published five years after gods in Alabama, but reading it out of order worked well for me and, probably, other readers. Had I read gods first, I would have known that Lolly Mae's search for Jim would lead her nowhere because I would have already had the back story.
Arlene Fleet left Possett and Fruton, Alabama 10 years ago with a promise to God that she'd never return and she'd quit sleeping around if he would just keep her secret. She'd killed Jim Beverly. Moving to Chicago for college and staying there, Arlene had created a good life for herself. Working on her master's, she's in love with the son of a woman who took her into her church family when she had no one else.
Burr loves Arlene and has been more than patient with her during their long courtship. But he's fed up with her refusal to introduce him to her family. When Rose Mae shows up demanding answers about Jim, Arlene has to go down to Alabama and straighten things out. This is her chance to come clean to Burr about her past and introduce her boyfriend to her redneck family that doesn't cotton to black people, let alone interracial relationships.
While Arlene has been holding on to this secret for years, her Aunt Florence has been holding on to her own. Abrasive and pushy, Florence thinks she knows why Arlene has stayed away from home for so long. And both women have spent 10 years protecting Florence's daughter Clarice from the truth.
I love Joshilyn Jackson's characters. Aunt Florence is a true steel magnolia. She'd just as soon shank you as she would serve you sweet tea. There's the nutty relative in the form of Arlene's mama, and the sweet as pie wouldn't hurt a fly character in the form of Clarice. A truly enjoyable read, gods in Alabama doesn't rank as high on my list as Between, Georgia or A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, but definitely higher than Backseat Saints
Published: April 2005
Listening time: 8 hours, 6 minutes