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

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.

Review

I can’t remember the last time that I fell in love with a story like this. Turning the last page, I wanted to hold this one close to my heart and just spend some more time with the characters.

The story begins with 16 year old Mattie sitting at the back of the bus in the segregated ‘colored’ section. She is holding a suitcase in her hands as her thoughts run something havoc. 16, pregnant and unmarried, Mattie knows that her life is about to change, and not in a positive way. Her mama’s dreams of seeing her making it in life are just about to be shattered. In the same bus is Rosa Parks, a remarkable,strong black woman who stood her ground and refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. Rosa’s actions inspired Mattie to rethink her life and make some courageous choices.

I loved the characters in this story. Mattie and her whole family melted my heart. I admired her mama’s dreams and resolve to offer her a different life. Working as a servant for a white family, mama was determined not to let her daughter live the same way. When Mattie’s life took a different turn, it was her mama’s strength that carried her. Other support characters such as Sadie, Ransome and Mattie’s cousins found their way into my heart too.

Narrated in two timelines, we have one story-line following Mattie’s life in 1955. The second story-line set in the present follows the life of Mattie’s granddaughter, Ashlee. There is so much strength, love, passion and determination flowing through the chapters as illustrated by a number of memorable, strong female characters. I was inspired and challenged. This story sure did move me.

The themes are undoubtedly heavy. Racism is one of the most despicable things in the world and I can’t imagine what life was like, under the Jim Crow laws. It still baffles me how people can hate each other just because of skin color. My heart bleeds for everyone who has ever been discriminated against. It further breaks my heart to know that although times have changed, some of the ugliness from the past is still alive today.

The story is so well narrated with deftly crafted characters. It is moving, captivating, haunting, heartbreaking yet beautiful. This is undoubtedly a book that I recommend to everyone.

Review: The Hiding Place (Detective Morgan Brookes # 3) by Helen Phifer

When nine-year-old Charlotte Standish goes missing from her street in the small town of Rydale Falls, it sparks a media frenzy. Detective Morgan Brookes leads a frantic hunt for the girl, but little Charlie seems to have vanished into thin air.

Chasing up a lead at Charlie’s school, Morgan is chilled to learn that this isn’t the first time a child has gone missing on this street. Another girl disappeared fifteen years ago, and Morgan is the only one who thinks the cases could be related. But in the moment that she takes her eye off Charlie’s case to investigate the link between the two girls, another child, Macy, goes missing.

TheMorgan must solve the case before more innocent lives are taken…

Review

The Hiding Place by Helen Phifer is the third book in the Detective Morgan Brookes series. I enjoyed the two previous titles and was a fan of the young, rookie detective who earned a place in a team with very experienced officers.

This was a good, solid read. It was a complex case as the detectives seemed to have only one real suspect (who they mercilessly hounded). Whilst, I enjoyed the investigations in the first two books in this series. I felt like the investigation took a bit of a back seat to the cop’s personal lives in this installment. Maybe my frustration came from having sussed out the Perp’s identity quite early in the story and hence not understanding why it was so hard for the detectives. I have also never been a fan of the ‘one detective solves the case alone’ trope which was strong in this one.

This installment is not my favorite in the series. However, I still like the team of detectives and can’t wait to catch up with them in the next case. If interested in this series, please read other reviews as I am definitely in the minority.