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Board the Bus with Van Horn

Book Review by Katy Haas.

Sometimes it’s important to slow down and not only enjoy the ride, but take in the details and really sit with them. Erica Van Horn does this in her collection of short essays, By Bus.

In By Bus, we’re transported to the bus transporting Van Horn as she describes what she sees from where she sits. “Horse” is just one paragraph long and explains an interaction between two passengers. In “Stuck in Inchicore,” we’re privy to one half of a phone conversation, the caller’s dialogue making up a majority of the essay. “A Never-Married” describes a “Ring-A-Link” bus, basically a phone-ordered bus ride which can take you “fairly straight into town” or “you ride along in the bus as it meanders through the countryside [ . . . ]. It can take as long as one hour to get to town.” We hear about it through Van Horn’s friend of a friend, Carmel, who sometimes takes this bus to meet a man—a man who is stuck on a bus for an hour with nowhere else to go. There is a variety in what the essays cover that keeps the short collection fresh throughout.

By Bus is a book for those of us who take out an earbud at the coffeeshop to eavesdrop on the gossip unfolding at a nearby table of strangers. Every interaction is a tiny glimpse into the window of a stranger’s life. Van Horn’s observations are clear and simple. She sits, she watches, she shares, and then moves onto the next one, never pausing to criticize or question. This is the perfect Sunday read, a reminder to slow down and sit with the changing landscapes and passengers of our own lives with the same gentleness Van Horn does.

By Bus by Erica Van Horn. Ugly Duckling Presse, March 2021.

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