Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Backseat Saints"

New York Times bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson's debut novel, gods in Alabama, won SIBA's 2005 Novel of the year Award and was a #1 BookSense pick. She won Georgia Author of the Year for her second novel, Between, Georgia, which was also a #1 BookSense pick. Her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, was a Break Out book at Target and has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Backseat Saints, and reported the following:
Backseat Saints tells the story of Rose Mae Lolley, a fierce, tiny ball of war wounds who was a minor character in my debut novel, gods in Alabama. Her life changes dramatically when she meets an airport gypsy who shares her past and knows her future. The gypsy's dire prediction: Ro's handsome, violent husband is going to kill her - unless she kills him first... The book is a cross country chase and a journey back through Rose’s past to find a possible future. On Page 69, Ro Grandee (maiden name, Rose Mae Lolley) is ransacking her elderly neighbor’s closet, looking for a place to hide the gun she just used to shoot at her husband, with disastrous results:
“I slid the closet door open. Bingo. The bottom was lined with shoe boxes. I dropped to my knees and lifted the lid of a box on the top row. It held a pair of black suede peep toe pumps that were a good two decades out of style. The box beside it had a pair of strappy red sandals with a high, jeweled heel. These must have belonged to her younger self, the one who looked like the dead sexy woman at the airport. It wasn’t likely Mrs. Fancy would come digging in here any time soon. I closed the lids and got on all fours to pull out a box from the bottom row. Phil came up behind me and butted my hip with his head, insistent. I couldn’t push him away; if I got cat dander on my hands I’d spend the rest of my day sneezing.

“Phil, you asshole, give me a sec,” I said. The shoe boxes were in nine stacks, each four or five boxes high, all the way across the bottom of the closet.

I chose the lowest one in the farthest back corner and pulled it out. I didn’t register that it felt too unbalanced to hold a pair of shoes until I was already knocking the lid off.

The box was full of baby things: a silver cup, hand-made pink booties, a baby book. There was a spritz of dark hair, fine as silk, in a ziplock bag. A folded piece of old paper rested on top.

I’d gone looking for a hiding spot for me, but I’d discovered Mrs. Fancy’s. I rocked up to a kneel and picked the paper out and opened it. It was the birth certificate. In the first name slot I read the name Ivy. I glanced down it, looking for a date. The certificate had been issued in 1972, four years after I was born. Ivy’s father was listed as Harold James Wheeler and her mother’s name was Janine Fancy Wheeler. Janine was the daughter Mrs. Fancy was visiting right now. The one who had supposedly had her first baby last week.

I’d stumbled upon the secret flotsam of a sad time, and now I was digging in the private pieces of a grief that belonged solely to my friend.”
I’m surprised to see how much of this page touches on larger elements of the novel. This is a book about uncovering hidden things, digging up the past, and stealing -- both literal thievery and stealing the secrets/lives/names of others -- is important. Phil the cat appears, and this is a book where relationships with animals matter. Rose’s closest confident is a dear and brain-free dog named Fat Gretel...
Learn more about the author and book at Joshilyn Jackson's website and blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue