"The Boy on the Bus"
(Reviewed by Kam Aures FEB 22, 2003)
Meg Landry comes down the path to greet her eight-year-old son, Charlie, whose school bus has just pulled up. The bus driver, Sandy, has exited the bus and walked around to her. Meg, sensing a problem, runs onto the bus and spots her son sitting in the back. As she moves closer she is taken aback as she does not feel that this boy is her son. "He looked so much like Charlie. Under normal circumstances, it would be their similarities that were remarkable. Now, of course, it was their differences." This boy's physical appearance suggested a maturity beyond Charlie's years.
Charlie's stop is the last stop on the route so he is alone on the bus. Meg asks him the easy, typical questions about school as he sits on the bus not making any move to exit. An hour later, after a visit from the Sheriff and a crowd of nosy onlookers, they exit the bus.
Anytime law enforcement is called to a situation involving a child, both parents need to be notified so the Sheriff calls Jeff, Charlie's father to inform him of what had happened. Jeff, who has never been married to Meg, is an architect working on a project in Canada. He is away most of the time on business trips and when he is home he sleeps on the pullout couch. Jeff makes the trip throughout the night to come home to Birchwood, Vermont and to try to make sense of the problem. Jeff also goes to pick up Katie, their thirteen-year-old rebellious daughter who is away at school. Jeff determines that he is pretty sure that the boy is Charlie and goes back to his normal routine of pacing, fixing things, and pretty much not paying any heed to the family. Katie, when she first had returned home had dismissed the notion that this was not her brother, but as the story moves on she eventually develops a fear of him as he seems not to know certain things about the family.
Something is not right. While this boy may look like Charlie, his physical health and mannerisms are different. For , Charlie is a severely asthmatic child who has the need for inhalers and other breathing apparatus. This "new boy" has no difficulty breathing and does not have coughing fits. Charlie has never made Meg breakfast, but this boy did. Charlie did not have a large appetite, but this boy could eat six eggs in one sitting.
Deborah Schupack's debut novel probes deep into the workings of this rural family focusing mainly on the mother Meg. Meg's mental state, broken down after many years of being the sole caregiver of a sick child, worsens throughout the novel as she constantly questions: "Is this her son?" Jeff, who has minimal involvement with the family, and his actions have affected Meg's well being. Also eating away at her sanity is Katie, the uncontrollable teenager. On the brighter side of her mental state, the relationship between Meg and the bus driver Sandy is a sub-plot within this psychological thriller. Jeff and Sandy really do not have any contact throughout the book. Sandy always appears when Jeff is not home or leaves right away when he returns. At one point in the book, Sandy is in Meg's kitchen when Jeff returns home and before he leaves, Sandy whispers, "I'd rather not see Jeff right now, while I am coveting his wife."
Overall, The Boy on the Bus is written in an intellectual prose form and flows smoothly. There were some parts of the novel that I felt could be shortened or cut out altogether, as it seemed to drag in places. However, besides these small "bumps in the road," this debut work was a suspenseful read and Schupack kept the pages easily turning until the very end.
- Amazon readers rating:from 26 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Boy on the Bus
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Christian Science Monitor review of The Boy on the Bus
- The Reviews of Books review of The Boy on the Bus
- January Magazine review of The Boy on the Bus
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About the Author:
Deborah Schupack has taught writing and literature at Vermont College, The New School, and Yale University. Her articles and short fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Gettysburg Review, and Fiction. She lives in New York City.