The Tallapoochee Farmers Bank opens at 8.00 a.m., and every morning Jasmine sits in her car and waits for Kay-Lee to come open the door. At the edge of the Tallapoochee National Forest, the morning air holds traces of ragwort, dogwood, and these vagrant pink flowers that pop up at the edge of the road. Oxeye daisies clinging to gravel lean in the wind as the trains clank by. Alabama is beautiful like that, like flowers clinging to gravel. Like Jasmine.
The slow train passes right behind Jasmine Wills as she sits in the bank parking lot with her foggy windows rolled up. Every morning she parks her brown Toyota at the back of the lot at the edge of the train tracks next to the windowless brick wall of the trophy shop so nobody can see what she’s doing. Old painted ads for hair oil, grape drinks, and leather shoes fade across brick walls behind her as she eats. The air in the car is hot and clammy, the smell of old food stark and sour under seats piled high with Styrofoam food containers, potato chip bags, wadded-up napkins, plastic soda tops, and dried up freedom fries. The fogged up windows protect her from nosy people.
A zany twist on the Southern Gothic, Ballad of Jasmine Wills is a wild and heartfelt tale of abduction and revenge, body shaming and media fame. Lee Rozelle’s debut novel is the story of overweight banker Jasmine and her kidnapper, the enigmatic Reality TV mastermind Preston Price. Trapped inside an egg-shaped studio in the secluded backwoods, Jasmine is tortured with haute cuisine, brainwashed with self-help videos, and badgered with cardio exercise routines for her growing mass of livestream fans. Filled with flashbacks of adolescent nuttiness and ennui in the 1980’s, Ballad of Jasmine Wills goes bizarro to explore links between Reality TV and the real, intervention and exploitation.