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

Book Description:
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 HelpOrphan 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.

My Review:

Well, where do I even start with this truly special book? I just loved this book from beginning to end.

The story has a dual timeline, between Mattie, in the 1950s, and Ashlee, her grand-daughter, in the present day. As the book goes on, and Ashlee discovers more of her grandmother’s remarkable story, the two interwoven stories of these strong women inspire and captivate the reader.

The story will have you completely mesmerised right from the start. It all feels so real, like you could step into the pages and be swept away. We witness history, as well as being given an insight into these women’s lives. Even if you are aware of the historical background to this novel, you will still be shocked, saddened and often angry at the discrimination that took place. But it’s a beautiful and tender story, with touching and poignant, and even funny moments.

I really admired and liked Mattie, she is a clever and strong character. She fights so hard to overcome obstacles. Ashlee is a product of a different time, and much more confident in the fight for her rights. Her internal monologue gives us a great insight into her thinking, and I found myself really getting to know, and love her.

This beautifully flowing and authentic story will make you laugh and cry. I didn’t want it to end, and when it did, I found myself smiling through the tears. This book will stay with me for a very long time. I think it’s going to be one of the huge literary successes of this year. A wonderful, inspiring novel.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author Bio:
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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