The Girl at the Back of the Bus: An absolutely heart-wrenching historical novel

· Bookouture
9 reviews

About this ebook

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

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.

What readers are saying about Suzette D. Harrison:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Couldn’t sleep until I finished… A beautiful story of betrayal, deception and genuine love.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Amazing! This book was everything.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “An amazing story from beginning to end! Captivated my attention and was hard to put down!… LOVED IT!” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I was sad when it ended!! Absolutely amazing.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I honestly can’t find enough adjectives or words to convey to you how very much I enjoyed this book… Pure perfection.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This is one of the reasons I enjoy reading!!… This book is worthy of occupying space with Toni Morrison, Bernice McFadden, J.California Cooper and Phyllis McKinney Whetstone to name a few.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “OMG OMG OMG! First, y’all just be prepared. Prepared to laugh, to cry, to shake your head.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “A truly amazing book that held me captive from first page to last.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Wow… I laughed, cried, and cried from laughter.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Man where do I start?… From beginning to end I couldn’t put this read down.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “My favorite book to date. I might need to reread just to fall in love with the characters again!” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “An incredible work of historical fiction and a MUST-READ.” Goodreads reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “One of the most beautiful stories I’ve read in a very long time. The vividness of the writing was amazing… Absolutely stunning.” Goodreads reviewer

Ratings and reviews

9 reviews
Friendly Neighborhood Inkslinger
February 8, 2021
'The Girl at the Back of the Bus' by Suzette D. Harrison is a historical fiction story that follows the paths of two women dealing with racial injustices decades apart. Told in a split narrative across two timelines, the book begins centered around Mattie Banks. Sixteen years old and pregnant, she boards a bus, hoping the driver will carry her away from disaster. Purely by chance, she happens to witness an act of bravery by a woman named Rosa Parks. Inspired, she decides to go a different direction with her choices, but dangers and difficulties seem to rise up around her. Meanwhile, in the present, Ashlee Turner.. dismayed by prejudice and its effects on a career she has worked so hard for, heads home to see her beloved grandmother while she still can. When she finds a hidden trove of letters containing a family secret, she too finds herself at a crossroads. I was certainly enraged at the injustices portrayed here, likely in part because though so much time has passed since Mattie's tale, not nearly enough has changed. Normally I find it hard to read detailed accounts of the horrible things people do to each other in the name of some perceived right they think they have and I didn't like seeing those things here either. However, I find it incredibly important to keep talking about them.. because I fear that if we as a society ever allow ourselves to forget the things that have been done.. that are still being done.. we will fail to find them as horrifying as we should. And frankly, it seems we're on the verge of failing that anyway. That being said, the writing is clean and crisp, the structure is sound, and the author does an excellent job of maintaining those two separate voices. There are no surprises here. Of course, there doesn't need to be a twist in everything, but I did come across a couple of spots where misdirection could have made the difference in keeping the storytelling itself, more interesting. I've read that reviewers were "enthralled and riveted".. but for me, it was just pretty good. I believe the sheer quality of the writing carried the story for most people, but the storytelling aspect was actually outmatched by the technical skill of the author. Quite possibly, the events themselves inspired others to rate the story higher, and that makes absolute sense to me.. but in trying to be objective about the overall presentation, I feel like it could have been more balanced. Yes. The things these two women experienced were unjust and should never have happened, but I actually think it could have packed a much bigger emotional punch than it did. I did enjoy the characters immensely though. From Dorothy and Mattie, to Ransome and Sadie.. they were painted vividly, full of warmth and determination. Nonetheless, as I said.. there are some very important topics discussed here.. and that alone might make this story a worthwhile read. It's a good reminder of a terrible time that is not so far behind us and a healthy wake-up call not to dismiss current situations still facing people today. (I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)
Judy Odom
February 8, 2021
Wow , if you read one book in the next few months make it The Girl at the Back of the Bus. It is beautifully written and is a story of courage, determination and grit of Mattie and her family. It is told from both the past and the present and the past was so full of fascinating history and you feel you are on that bus with Mattie and Rosa Parks. Ashlee , Mattie's granddaughter is at a cross roads in her life and comes home to see her ailing Grandmother. I laughed with both Mattie and Ashlee and I cried with them both. Both a heartwarming and heart wrenching story; don't miss The Girl at the Back of the Bus. Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for an inspiring read that I won't forget anytime soon.
Morgan R
February 8, 2021
This multigenerational family drama touches on heavy subjects while remaining light and compulsively readable. This may not be the type of book I would typically pick up, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. Partially set in the Jim Crow South, with flashes forward to modern day, I loved the perspective shift between grandmother and granddaughter. The characters' relationships and interwoven, fast-moving narratives kept me turning the page well past my bedtime. I especially appreciated that the historical novelization from this era was written by a black female author and centered on strong black women and their journeys. Thank you to NetGalley & Bookouture for providing me with an advanced copy of this title ahead of its February 8 publication in exchange for my feedback.

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