‘The Man On The Bus’
Written by By Mary Teresa Madden
Book Review by Dr. Phil Noone
Good morning everyone. I’ve Mary Madden’s beautiful new book beside me, titled: “The Man on the Bus”. I first read it four weeks ago when on a weekend of Mindfulness study in Dublin. I couldn’t think of a better antidote to my tough day. A story of romance. Pure escapism. Don’t you just love it! Well I did. From the first line, I wanted to know who this ‘Man on the Bus’ was and what shenanigans he was up to?
Go get it girls, this is romance and lots of it! I could be accused of gender bias here, so I’ll say, guys, leave the soccer alone for once, pick up Mary’s book and sink and slide into a moment of romance. Be warned! As I turned the pages, I kept looking for sex, drugs and rock and roll. But this book avoids what might be perceived by some as ‘smut’! Mind you, I love a bit of smut too. But this book is clean, pure and manages to omit ‘steamy-bedroom scenes’. This is where imagination comes in, so folks, as they hold hands, heading to the bedroom in the honeymoon suite, you just have to go with the flow and imagine…
The cover, the title. I love both. The title: The Man on the Bus has me wondering, my curiosity awakened, who is he? Where is he going? What’s his story? Who does he meet? I’m smiling, I’m hoping he’s good looking, hot, wildly passionate? I’ll just have to wait and see…
The cover. A mixture of blue, yellow and black works incredibly well. The title in bold white print contrasts with the late evening blue of the sky as the tour bus comes to a halt, its lights casting yellow shadows on the dark earth. This is an inviting front cover, calling with honest anticipation – read me and I won’t disappoint.
The author’s name, Mary Teresa Madden, visible in yellow against the dark shadows. The logo Book Hub positioned underneath, its familiar black visible against the ridge of yellow at the bottom of the front cover.
Browsing in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop in Galway, I’d pick up this book and flick its pages with curiosity, seeking an easy read, a chance for a chill moment, a tale of romance. The back cover tells us this is a love story. A framed picture of its author visible against snow-capped mountains. This suggests to me that it is set in Winter, but maybe this tale of love stretches beyond seasons to reach the realistic love patterns of everyday life.
I now take a break before I write some more and am captivated by Bruce Springsteen’s new release called ‘Western Star’. In this moment, I am caught between listening to Bruce, reviewing Mary’s book or reading Fergus Hogan’s incredible book of new poetry titled “Bittern Cry”, also published by Book Hub Publishing. My energy space is captivated by lyrics of song, lyrics of poetry and lyrics of prose. Bruce’s Tuscan Train: “She’s arriving on the 5.15 train” transports me to a world of travel, excitement, anticipation, the unknown currents of a new town, new city, new country as it pulls you in its rip-tide of discovery. Travel excites. Real travel excites. But travel in Mary’s book is steading, familiar, routine, comforting, a different layer of life’s discovery, of life’s enjoyment.
When I first read it, it made me laugh, lightened my mood. It is exquisite in its simplicity, its ordinary-ness, its everyday-ness. It touches us all, has a place in all our hearts. The tantalizing captivation of stories, other people’s stories, other people’s lives, constructed and re-constructed in their locales, their families, their sense of belonging, their life narratives.
It is set in the Irish landscape. But it traverses to Scotland, crosses the divides to London and the States, other areas too. Its characters are recognizable, familiar, caught up in the local drama of family life in rural Ireland.
I love Mary’s quote before the start of chapter one:
“To make a difference in someone’s life
You don’t have to be brilliant,
Rich, beautiful, perfect
You just have to care”
So true, so true of you Mary as a person. I’m delighted to have met you on many occasions and your sense of care towards others around you, family, friends, community is part of who you are as a person. And this is what rings true in every page. I imagine the characters in this book are all created from your own heart-space with a sense of love and cherish for everyone.
The first paragraph tells us, “She wanted her relationship with Alex to work even though he had decided to settle in Scotland. She didn’t want to lose him. She loved him dearly and hoped he loved her too” (5).
It interweaves the stories of Michael and his family, their loses, challenges, loves, struggles and survival. It is about relationships, lived locally, heartbreak past and present woven with delicate consideration into each chapter. Yvonne, Lou and Martin, Alex, Celia and Martin, Carol and Jim, Kathleen and Martin plus some more… I can’t give it all away!
And what a boat trip it turned out to be! I laughed out loud as the calm Shannon cruise erupted in drama: “It is all your fault. If you had stayed upon deck instead of going down to the salon to try to seduce Lou, this catastrophe would never have happened. Claudia screamed at Lou “of course this type of carry on with women is old news to me, believe me Lou, you are only one of many, as Jenny will find out when I get back. He is having a fling with her for the past year. She looked to where Edward stood spellbound, twisting his smart phone in his hand. He was speechless…” (114).
This books contains many exquisitely beautiful descriptions of nature caught in the changing light of day, “After breakfast on Christmas morning, Jim stood looking out the window… a flock of birds fluttered by slowly and headed for the mountains. He wanted to capture them on paper and kept the image locked in his mind until he got his sketch pad out after dinner…The day came to a close and as he went to bed he noted the sky lit up with sliver stars and there was a full orange moon shining over the mountains and lakes. And he got to bed he slept thinking of the girl he was going to marry and dreamed of her until morning” Go away, I’m not giving her name away!
Due to its beautiful telling, each of the characters in this book have a unique story, a tale of love, romance, crisscrossed with fight, struggle, success etc. You’ll pick it up, start to read and you will not put it down until you discover all of its hidden gems, its hidden secrets.
I have to say Mary, you’re a ‘class act’! This book has depth in detail, drama, family feuds, the making up, the patching up, the agreeing to differ moments and “As she kissed him on the lips, a soft light kiss and walked out the door” … (184). I leave you, my fond readers to discover the hidden gems of love and romance that each sentence, each page, each chapter contains, drawing us every more tightly into its web of intrigue, of heartbreak and of special moments when ‘Their nights were spent sipping cocktails on the white sand beach watching the golden sunset…” (169).
Thank you Mary for writing this book. I’ll always remember the moment when I read it, its simplicity moved me, its honesty touched me, its love and your love surrounded me. And my most loved character was ‘Jim’. I loved his courage, his grit, his determination, his creative talent and his ability to be drawn into nature-spaces. But who is this elusive ‘Man on the Bus’? I tell you not! Buy it, read it and you’ll have such an evening of fun and enjoyment. The simple pleasures in life, so important to our everyday existence, capturing happiness moments, sharing them with the characters and enjoying our own too as we turn its pages. This book gifted me a freeing sense of well-being as I read it.
Words are like love,
drawing you in,
holding you close,
letting you be. Intact,
free. (Noone, 2019)
*Dr Phil Noone is a Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.