Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus – Review

Harriet is a seventy-two year old widow that lives alone. Her son, Henry, had called from the airport, on his way home to visit for the holidays. While waiting, Harriet decides to hang some ornaments on the tree, and slips and falls. Knowing her son will arrive shortly, and thinking she severely sprained her ankle, she decides to just stay on the floor and wait for him. Henry arrives and believes his mother to be helpless as he finds her just sitting on the floor waiting. Harriet argues with her daughter-in-law as to whether her ankle is sprained or broken, and a wager is made. If her ankle is broken, Harriet will move from her home in Pennsylvania to live with them in California. Several months later, Harriet’s broken ankle has healed and she is packing for her move. As she is packing her beloved salt and pepper shaker collection, Harriet realizes that she has only bought one of her many sets personally. She decides to take a scenic route to California, mainly taking local buses, so she can see the country, and visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in New Jersey.

This book is a very fun and lighthearted read. When I read the synopsis, I hadn’t realized Harriet was taking local buses mostly. Our local bus route runs from downtown Detroit all the way to the airport, stopping at the mall where you can connect to any of the local buses covering the downriver area. But the thought of traveling all the way to California by local bus, is daunting, I can’t imagine having the courage to do it at Harriet’s age. Along the way Harriet encounters many people and this book becomes a story about human nature. She talks to people she wouldn’t normally have talked to and finds that while people come in different packages, they are all human underneath.

As a side note, I have to comment that this reminds me of an elderly cousin that I had while growing up. She had sent a postcard to my great-grandmother telling her that she was traveling to Alaska by motorcycle. She was in her 90s and exclaimed that she had never felt so alive, she felt sixty again. Life doesn’t end at a certain age, it is merely a new beginning. One just has to take a leap of faith sometimes and try something new.