Title: The Girl at the Back of the Bus
Author: Suzette D. Harrison
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Netgalley ARC
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.
An exceptionally written Historical fiction about the fight for independence. The chapters alternate between Mattie and her granddaughter, Ashlee. Miz Rosa park has inspired many over the years, as we see very well in this book. Mattie, on her way for an abortion becomes determined to keep her baby after seeing Rosa’s adamant behaviour in refusing to give up her seat on the bus. From the start, we see how racism has segregated the people. Mattie has to hide her pregnancy from everyone including her mother in fear for being laughed at, and labelled as ‘dirty’. Her character is a strong one, tough and intelligent. Her mom is another amazing character. She struggled to bring up her family alone. We see Mattie and the many emotions she has to go through, after they are kicked out of their house. She takes charge of her life, helping out her mom at the same time taking care of her baby.
The true meaning and family and friendship is emphaisized in Mama, Sadie, and Mattie’s cousins and family. A story of true love, hope, survival.
On the other hand, we are introduced into Ashlee’s life. A prestigious lawyer, who is at the height of her career but still doesn’t feel confident has to travel back to her hometown after she received a call that her grandmother is sick. We see Ashlee as a tough lady who is confident in herself, and loved by those around her.
As a Black girl, I feel so invested in the book. The emotional toil it carries, I relate so much to the characters and the fight they have gone through to make a name for themselves and inspire many others along the way. The characters are written in a captivating manner, so real that at some points I thought I was reading a true life story. I love each POV – the setting, the way the plot carries us into the world of Mattie and Ashlee. This book is already one of my best reads this year. Even though I’ve never read any of the author’s works, I’m already keeping my eyes peeled for more of her books.
Massive thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for this ARC copy in exchange for a honest review.
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.