Anyone who has ever ridden on a cross-country Greyhound bus will immediately relate to the nine stories in Sybil Rosen’s Riding the Dog. An eclectic collection of stories of passengers on the iconic bus line, they’re fiction, but they tell a kind of profound truth. Whether it’s a driver who develops a fixation on a regular passenger in ‘Change in Kingston,’ or two people whose paths unknowingly cross again on a bus from Dallas to Memphis in ‘Graceland,’ people who’ve ridden the dog will find someone they know.
There’s absolutely nothing not to like about this book. The cover is light, but conveys with pinpoint accuracy what awaits the reader who opens the book. The characters are painted in bold strokes, warts and all, but still worthy of a reader’s empathy. The author has obviously done a lot of long-distance bus riding, for she author limns each scene, portraying the sight, sound, smell, and sense of being cooped up in a rolling closet that traps smells and sounds and amplifies them, in a seat that is to narrow, not deep enough, and too close to its neighbor, and every bump in the road or swerve of the bus is magnified by the time it reaches your backside which never fits the impression left by countless riders before you.
One can hear the dialogue and feel the emotions as the bus jostles along, through endless countryside, or another industrial zone of whatever city is the next stop.
The book is well edited—I think I found one or maybe two typos—and the prose is first rate. Dialect is used, but sparingly, not the parody it seems to be in many stories about people of the socio-economic status and geographic origins who normally use Greyhound as the preferred mode of transport. You don’t get the feeling that the author’s mocking these characters, she’s just faithfully showing them as they are.
I’m a generous and liberal reviewer who usually looks for any excuse for giving a book a high rating, but in this case it wasn’t necessary. This is easily a five-star book.