The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett
July 10, 2023 5:19 PM - Subscribe

Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist in this wickedly funny, dark novel about one woman’s post-cancer retreat to a remote Australian town and the horrors awaiting her. It wasn’t just the bad breakup that turned Eleanor Mellett’s life upside down. It was the cancer. And all the demons that came with it.

One day she felt a bit of a bump when she was scratching her armpit at work. The next thing she knew, her breast was being dissected and removed by an inappropriately attractive doctor, and she was suddenly deluged with cupcakes, judgy support groups, and her mum knitting sweaters.

Luckily, Eleanor discovers Talbingo, a remote little town looking for a primary-school teacher. Their Miss Barker up and vanished in the night, despite being the most caring teacher ever, according to everyone. Unfortunately, Talbingo is a bit creepy. It’s not just the communion-wine-guzzling friar prone to mad rants about how cancer is caused by demons. Or the unstable, overly sensitive kids, always going on about Miss Barker and her amazing sticker system. It’s living alone in a remote cabin, with no cell or Internet service, wondering why there are so many locks on the front door and who is knocking on it late at night.
posted by Literaryhero (4 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I found this randomly in AskMe about books/writers that are lesser known. I started reading it without having any idea what it was about, I just liked the sound of the title. Anyway, it starts off like literary fiction (or at least adjacent), so I was like ok, that's fine. Then all of a sudden it takes a left turn and off we go.

I liked it a lot, which is surprising, given its middling Goodreads score. The book is funny and ridiculous, but also heart-wrenching as you see this poor woman just sort of self-destruct and wonder if what she is experiencing is real or a breakdown or what and then the book just ends.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:22 PM on July 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Ah, I got really excited about your review of it Literyhero until your last sentence. Without spoiling I guess (and feel free to email me if you can't answer this question without giving too much away) but when you say it just ends...

Do you mean no resolution and no understanding of what's true or why and what happens to the character/s (I guess like The Mist novella by King) or is it more it just ends (like maybe a A little life) where the story ends and everything is revealed but the end just throws you back to the real world and you want back in to follow the characters more and are just like WTF?
posted by Lesium at 1:32 AM on July 12, 2023

I've read the book and I'm pretty sure I know what happens at the end. It was a "wait what was that?" moment for me though. It sort of (imo) resists the conventions of fiction without holding out on the reader. To me, it remains relatable throughout but clearly some readers disagree.
posted by BibiRose at 4:33 AM on July 12, 2023

Do you mean no resolution and no understanding of what's true or why and what happens to the character

Well, definitely everything isn't revealed, but it is pretty clear what happens, as BibiRose said. I think it is worth reading, and also it is a pretty short novel so you don't have to commit too much to it.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:22 PM on July 13, 2023

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