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February 8, 2021

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

by Susan Roberts

"Water fountains. Restrooms. Diners. Libraries. The first floor seats at movies. If it was meant for public gatherings or consumption, race markers were posted reminding us of who was and wasn't welcome." (loc 129)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Girl at the Back of the Bus
February 2021; Bookouture; 978-1800191747
audio, ebook, print (312 pages); historical fiction
"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?”  

Mattie Banks's story starts in Montgomery Alabama in 1955 when she is 16 and ends in Georgia where she is dying  It is told as a dual timeline story from the perspective of Mattie in the early part and her granddaughter Ashlee in the present day.  The storylines are meshed together perfectly and we not only get to know Mattie as a young girl but through her granddaughter, we learn the effect that her life had on the following generations of her family.

1955 - Montgomery Alabama.  Sixteen-year-old Mattie is on a bus   She's pregnant and scared and heading to see a woman who can end her pregnancy.  While on the bus she sees a woman named Rosa Parks refuse to give up her seat and this act of bravery makes Mattie re-think her life and problems.  She decides that she, too, can be brave and deal with the issues in her life no matter how difficult they are.

Present day - Atlanta Georgia.  Ashlee is a lawyer in a top firm.  Her goal has always been to be one of the partners in the firm and she has basically given up her life and family to work hard enough to make it happen.  When she is informed that the person she was mentoring - a rich, white, male -  got the promotion that she was working for, she knows that she has to find her passion in life again and requests a two-week leave of absence. When she finds that her beloved Nana is dying, she immediately goes to her family in Valdosta. She finds a book that her grandmother had written years earlier. At first, Ashlee thinks it is fiction until she realizes that it's her family story. Some of the truths are difficult to read and she has to decide if she'll share them with her parents or if it will be too hurtful for them. The more she reads about Mattie's life, the more she realizes the battles she fought throughout her life to bring her to the place she is now and how what happened in her life has affected Ashlee's quest to find out what will make her happy in her life.

The characters in The Girl at the Back of the Bus are so well written that it's easy to feel their pain and joy.  What is so sad is that viewing the world in 1955 and present day, even though there has been a lot of progress, racism and sexism still exist and still negatively affect many lives.  This is a powerful, emotional book with characters that you won't soon forget.

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 between batches of cupcakes. 

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter

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  1. This book sounds really good! I like the idea of looking at the role of white supremacy across the generations.

  2. Thank you Girl Who Reads for taking the time to review The Girl at the Back of the Bus and sharing it with others.