An oddly cheerful story about two generations of battered wives who eventually fight back.
Jackson (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, 2008, etc.) briefly introduced Rose Mae Lolley in her first novel Gods of Alabama when she came to Chicago looking for a high-school sweetheart ten years after he disappeared. Here Rose Mae takes center stage. Having run away from Alabama as a teen to escape her abusive father, she has ended up in Texas as Ro, married to equally abusive husband Thom Grandee. Given Ro’s spunk and charisma, her elderly neighbor finds Ro’s reluctance to leave Thom frustrating, but Jackson doesn’t shy from showing Ro’s attraction to Thom as well as her drift toward complicity in their troubled relationship. One day Ro drives her neighbor to the airport, where a “gypsy” warns her to kill Thom before he kills her. As Ro recognizes, the “gypsy” is actually her mother Claire, who long ago ran away from her own abusive marriage, though it meant leaving behind her child. Now called Mirabelle (dual names are standard in Jackson’s work), Claire lives in San Francisco, where she runs a halfway house for battered wives. Prodded by her mother’s warning, Ro soon reverts to her old Rose Mae identity and plans her escape from Thom. After her previously mentioned visit to Chicago and a trip back to Alabama to see her now pathetic father, she heads to California. Mother and daughter warily reunite. Rose Mae moves into the bedroom Claire has been keeping at the ready. While the women’s interactions prickle with resentment and guilt, mild romantic interest crops up for Rose in the person of Claire’s wispy landlord. When news comes that Thom is heading toward San Francisco, readers can assume that brutal justice is at hand.
Jackson’s sprightly prose and charismatic characters offer readers a rollicking good time along with the typical bromides about domestic abuse.