Epic road trip: review of Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

A bet between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law can’t end well, right?

Rest assured, it’s not as bad as it might sound. In fact, it’s better. It’s the premise for Joyce Magnin’s latest novel, Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus.

When Harriet Beamer, a 70-something widow, falls off a chair while hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree, her son and daughter-in-law decide it’s time she move from her home in suburban Philadelphia to their home in California. The catch is: she only has to move if her ankle is broken. Harriet, never one to turn down a bet, agrees. When the X-ray comes back showing she’s broken her ankle, Harriet has no choice but to keep her end of the bet. She packs up her salt-and-pepper shaker collection and puts her basset hound, Humphrey, on a plane. Realizing she’s never been anywhere, she decides not to get on the plane with her beloved canine. She’s going to move to California, but she’s going to see some sights along the way.

What follows is Harriet’s bold, outrageous and sometimes frightening journey across the United States on public transportation, with a few alternate means. Her trip is nowhere near a straight shot from east to west, which is how she intends it.

I’ve been a fan of Magnin’s books for about a year. (Read my reviews of a couple of her other books here.) She weaves a tale that is remarkable and inspiring with characters who feel like old friends. Magnin has a knack for creating outrageously believable scenarios and is a master of imagery. A person Harriet meets doesn’t just have wrinkles. He has more wrinkles than the prunes Harriet ate for breakfast. The book is brimming with clear pictures of people and places. What a treat.

FAVORITES: In the midst of Harriet’s travels are nuggets of wisdom that hit you almost out of the blue. Harriet is on a physical journey and a spiritual journey.  What she learns spoke to me in the midst of a journey of unknown destination in my own life.

FAULTS: If there is any fault at all, it’s that Harriet  Beamer may not appeal to a younger generation because of her age. Although with the popularity of Betty White and her friends on television, there is hope. And I do hope that readers of all ages pick up this book, or download it, because just like our grandparents’ generation, Harriet Beamer has something to teach us all.

IN A WORD: Vicarious. Reading Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus makes me want to travel and do unexpectedly courageous things. Now. Not when I’m 70. I even marked a couple of places in the book to look up later as possible travel destinations.

Harriet’s journey continues on her blog. Yes, that’s right. Harriet Beamer has her own blog. You can follow her ongoing adventures here. I’m eager to catch up on her travels.

Side note: If you’ve got a Kindle, Magnin’s first book in the Bright’s Pond series, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, is free (as of Tuesday night). Check it out here.

About the Author

Joyce Magnin is the author of five novels, including the popular and quirky Bright’s Pond series and the middle grade novel “Carrying Mason.” She is a writing instructor and frequent conference speaker. Joyce lives in Pennsylvania with her son, Adam, and their crazy cat, Mango, who likes to eat nachos.


In exchange for this review, I received a free advanced digital copy of the book from Zondervan.


2 thoughts on “Epic road trip: review of Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

  1. Pingback: The adventure continues: Review of Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold by Joyce Magnin | Living Echoes

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