Review: The Girl at the Back of the Bus by Suzette D. Harrison

The Girl at the Back of the Bus by Suzette D. Harrison

Synopsis and Details:

I watched in awe as Miz Rosa stopped those men on the bus with her clear, calm “no” and I thought about that word. What if I said no? What if I refused to follow the path these White folks wanted for us? What if I kept this precious baby?

Montgomery, Alabama, 1955

On a cold December evening, Mattie Banks packs a suitcase and leaves her family home. Sixteen years old and pregnant, she has already made the mistake that will ruin her life and disgrace her widowed mother. Boarding the 2857 bus, she sits with her case on her lap, hoping that the driver will take her away from disaster. Instead, Mattie witnesses an act of bravery by a woman named Rosa Parks that changes everything. But as Mattie strives to turn her life around, the dangers that first led her to run are never far away. Forging a new life in a harsh world at constant risk of exposure, Mattie will need to fight to keep her baby safe.

Atlanta, Georgia, present day

Ashlee Turner is going home. Her relationship in ruins, her career held back by prejudice, she is returning to the family who have always been her rock. But Ashlee’s home is not the safe haven she remembers. Her beloved grandmother is dying and is determined to share her story before she leaves…

When Ashlee finds a stack of yellowing letters hidden in her nana’s closet, she can’t help the curiosity that compels her to read, and she uncovers an old secret that could wreak havoc on her already grieving family. As she tries to make sense of what she has learned, Ashlee faces a devastating choice: to protect her loved ones from the revelations, or honor her grandmother’s wishes and follow the path to the truth, no matter where it may lead.

For readers of The Help, Orphan Train and Before We Were Yours comes a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about redemption, family secrets and the spirit of survival found at the hardest time. 

Genres: Black and African American Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction  |  Release Date: February 08, 2021  |  Publisher: Bookouture  |  Length: 310 pages  |  ISBN: 978-1800191747  |  ASIN: B08N1C5PL3  |  Format: Paperback  |  Source: Purchased

Review with Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Girl at the Back of the Bus is a multigenerational story that followed two characters who I absolutely fell head over heels in love with. I was equally enthralled with Mattie’s story as I was with Ashlee’s and putting down this book was not even a consideration for me. I loved how the timelines for each of these characters were introduced separately and stood on their own but were also woven together to show how the past influenced the future. 

Mattie’s story was very powerful! Not only with how well it showcases racial tensions in the 1950’s, but in how it showed the backbone and courage of not only Mattie, but of her mother, and the friends and family involved in this story. The presentation of discrimination and adversity in this time period is quite emotional and impactful. I was both disgusted and angered by the treatment that young Mattie received but I was also humbled by her strength and fortitude. It was not fair, it was intolerable, but it was also a shameful reality.

Ashlee’s story is present day and she is a very ambitious woman who has been delivered a severe blow to her career and she is reeling. During this time period, she receives news that is heart shattering for her and she decides to put a pause on everything and reorient her priorities. While trying to stabilize her thoughts on what her future should encompass, Ashlee is introduced to a piece of family history that shifts her perception in many ways and causes her to deeply consider her goals and motivations. There was much to enjoy in the present-day portion of this story and I really enjoyed Ashlee and her family. There were many earnest moments that were filled with both sadness and joy.

There is much unpleasantness in The Girl at the Back of the Bus but that pales in comparison to the spirit and resilience that is expressed through the lives of these characters. This novel also highlights the wrongness of racism and sexism and how, even though many things have changed since the 1950’s, there is still a way to go. This story may be a work of fiction but the challenges that it portrays are not fictional. We would all do well to hear the messages portrayed and give them heartfelt consideration. Overall, The Girl at the Back of the Bus was an impactful story that was emotional, endearing, inspiring, and one that I would very much recommend.

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🖋 ❤️ ✒️

About the Author:

Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary “career” began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next novel…in between batches of cupcakes. 

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The Girl at the Back of the Bus

Categories: Published in 2021, Review

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