My first novel was set in the Sixties of my young adulthood, and I’ve never stopped trying to understand that troubled time. For that reason I accepted an advance copy of this book by Charles Person in exchange for an honest review:
I did find this book surprisingly hard to get into at first, given that the subject is something that affected my own life. I understand that there is a lot of anger and pain behind Person’s memories, and I needed to make myself ‘see’ firsthand events that I was mercifully spared at the time.
But the story is slowed by long passages that pretty much make the same point over and over without adding any more to it. I felt like my head was being pounded on or preached at. And like any human, I couldn’t help resisting. Charles Person has every right to make this point with the book, but I wanted the story behind it, not the same anger over and over. I bookmarked pages and highlighted a lot, and I sincerely believe that if I took just my bookmarked pages and the highlighted passages and made a new book, I wouldn’t be leaving much out, and the horror of it all would still be there.
I believe the point he wants to make is not the buses or their riders, the point is what happened to those buses and riders, and the eternal question WHY? Why did such things have to happen? To any human being? And why are they happening still?
I was well over halfway into the book before we were actually on the buses. I began to learn about why the buses had to come, about what happened on them and the treatment of the people who volunteered to go on them. I learned about the hideousness and the inexplicable murderous hate. And the ability of so many to rise above it and carry on. And finally I was glad to have read this book, both for my own research and for my own humanity.
Then in the last chapter or so, it returned to being a polemic. This book is heartbreaking, and a necessary read for all who want to understand its truths. I’m glad for this bit of illumination into my own history. But trying to pound it into the reader over and over gets in the way and makes the book much less effective than it could have been. There is a reason the buses had to come and why they are still coming. And they will keep coming until we do understand and do something about it.