Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus, by Joyce Magnin (Zondervan, 2012)
Harriet Beamer is a 72-year-old, independent-minded widow who lives with her super-sized hound, Humphrey. She’s agreed to move in with her son and daughter-in-law, but she doesn’t have to go quietly. Or conventionally.
All her life, Harriet has lived a conventional life. The only unusual thing she’s done is collect salt and pepper shakers. She’s never travelled, never had an adventure. So she sends her dog to their new home by air and sets out to join him by bus. Local transit where possible, Greyhound or train at a last resort. All the way from Pennsylvania to California.
Her journey is a hoot. Think of something funny that could happen: odds are, it does. A few not-so-funny things happen too.
As she travels, and as her writer son Henry and his wife Prudence wait and worry, each one reaches a change in thinking that should let them live happily ever after.
This is a fun summer read that prompted a lot of snorts and laughter. I have no idea if the details of various transit stations are accurate, but they’re fine for an armchair journey. And Harriet’s feistiness is inspiring.
It’s a Christian novel, and because of the sensitivities of some within the faith I’ll issue two warnings: 1) Harriet has been known to place small bets. Selling her house is actually the result of losing the only high-stakes bet she’s ever made. 2) Harriet uses words like “dang” and “geeze”. This won’t bother most readers at all, didn’t bother me although the gambling surprised me, but if either of these things are on your don’t fly list, you’ll want to choose a different novel.
It’s not a preachy novel, although Harriet meets more believers than a realistic slice of US demographics would produce. It’s the sort of book you can read, enjoy, and share with a friend. And if it encourages your own sense of adventure, so much the better. The world needs more Harriets.
Joyce Magnin is the author of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, Carrying Mason and the Bright’s Pond Series. To learn more, you can visit Joyce Magnin’s blog or her Zondervan author page.
[Review copy from my personal library.]
- Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus (create-with-joy.com)