The Bus on Thursday Book Review

Written by Matt E. Lewis

Published by MCD X FSG Originals


Written by Shirley Barrett
2018, 304 pages, Fiction
Released on September 18th, 2018


Eleanor has been through the worst period of her life. She got cancer, her boyfriend left her, and now she finds herself unemployed and living with her mother, blurting out strange confessions of love to elderly doctors. Feeling stretched to her limit, a light appears at the end of the tunnel when she finally gets a job offer in the small rural town of Tabingo – little does she know that the light is actually a train speeding toward her. If she thought that bad break-ups and judgy support groups were irritating, just wait until she pulls up to the Pleasentville-esque town that practically worshipped her predecessor, the mysteriously-disappeared Miss Barker.

Imagine the offbeat humor of Fleabag meeting The Wicker Man, with a healthy dose of the kind of trademark dark feminine Aussie comedy shown in The Katering Show and Get Krackin!. Written as a series of blogs, Eleanor relates her relatedly self-centered woes when dealing with everything from shitty boyfriends to a cancer diagnosis. Trapped in a world that keeps giving her the shaft and expects her to be grateful for it, she is given a way out via a substitute teaching job in a rural Australian town. However, the town is creepier than she expects in a Miss Marple with kangaroos kind of way. There are the usual old busybodies, already churning the rumor mills at her arrival, and a strange alcoholic priest that proclaims her cancer to be the work of demons. But as we all know, usually the most disturbing denizens of small towns are the children, and these are no exception. They continue to loudly mourn the loss of Miss Barker, haranguing Eleanor to meet the impossible standards she kept up. Ryan, the one too-old-for-the-grade, gives her seriously creepy vibes (I picture him as one of those kids who wears a beanie year-round).

Eleanor self-medicates the best she can with chocolate and wine, but is soon visited by Gregory, a mysterious man who simultaneously repulses and attracts her, like a KFC Cheetos sandwich. They end up in a bizarre and lustful relationship, which is only complicated by the fact that he is the brother of beanie kid Ryan. At this point, reality seems to fracture – strange events seem to happen – or maybe they don’t? She can’t remember if she got run off the road by Gregory’s Jaguar? Did Ryan really drive the car into the pond? Why did she flush all her tamoxifen down the toilet? Can a pregnancy test lie to you? Just what was Miss Barker really up to in this strange place with these strange people?

The Bus on Thursday is funny, weird, and pretty confusing – in short, a great read. If the humor of What We Do in The Shadows is your kind of thing, then this could be your kind of thing, except there are no vampires. So, that, minus the vampires. Maybe like Russian Doll but with a completely different premise and different characters. It’s an original, surreal, dark, female-lead comedy sort-of mystery. Take with you on vacation and don’t forget to leave it on the bus for the next person to read.


Overall: fourstars Cover
Buy from Amazon US

This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Matt E. Lewis
Instagram -
Staff Reviewer
Matt E. Lewis is the editor of The Radvocate magazine and co-editor of the horror anthology series States of Terror from Ayahuasca Publishing. His reviews and short fiction have also appeared on Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, PANK magazine, Vol.1 Brooklyn, Electric Literature, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Other articles by this writer


Join Us!

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...