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Reviews

 

KIRKUS REVIEW

Ross tells the story of a woman searching for peace in a threatened black community in the Hudson Valley.

Raised in a Roman Catholic orphanage in Baltimore, Bibsy arrives in New York to live with her sister and experience the Harlem nightlife of the 1950s. Her path takes an unexpected turn, however, after a chance encounter with Jake Tucker, a boisterous, light-skinned widower from a rural bend in the Hudson River who has come down to the city to get drunk and meet women. The two hit it off, and Bibsy returns with Jake to the Beach, his small outpost of black America in upstate New York, where he and his family subsist on hunting animals and growing vegetables. Adjusting to rural life takes some getting used to, particularly for Bibsy, who is trailed by her own unwelcome memories of childhood and familial complications. And yet country living seems liberating, far away from the expectations of urban life: “Jake’s place was so unkempt he couldn’t have made a worse mess on purpose,” she observes upon first reaching the Beach. “Everywhere else she’d lived had been very orderly and spotless; and she’d been expected to help keep it that way.” Their paradise becomes endangered, however, by plans to extend the state’s road system with a new bridge, and their quiet hamlet may be swallowed up by the encroaching threat of suburbanization. Ross is an infinitely humane writer, and her characters in this debut novel burst with humor and warmth. The love story of Jake and Bibsy remains endearing despite their flaws: it has the lived-in weight of a real love affair, not simply a literary creation. Bibsy’s back story, delivered piecemeal over the course of the book, provides just enough mystery to keep the reader hooked, but the true achievement is the revelation of small-town life among African-Americans in the middle of the last century. Readers are extremely familiar with depictions of Harlem, but the fictional Langston County provides a seldom-seen glimpse into a real piece of New York history, one that subsequent human migrations have erased from the map.

A lovingly constructed, engrossing novel about an African-American family and hamlet.

 


A SELECTION OF AMAZON REVIEWS

G. Stern Review

Before the first Tappan Zee was built By G. Stern. A new bridge is being built across the Hudson River, and it’s a pretty amazing (and expensive) spectacle. But 60 years ago, the opening of the first Tappan Zee Bridge changed everything for many communities, especially those on the western side of the river that had been largely “disconnected” from NYC’s economic pull. Brenda Ross’ moving first novel, “Bibsy,” gives life to one-such community in a fictional county that’s a literary version of Rockland County. The community, known as The Beach, is willfully rural for the 1950s, without electricity or plumbing. For its African-American residents, The Beach is an island of independence and self-sufficiency. Jake Tucker and his friends and relatives are proud to live there on their own terms, even as they sense that the bridge under construction may doom their way of life. Some even consider a return to the South, despite the horrors that their parents and grandparents endured there. Jake meets Bibsy in a Harlem bar in 1952 and quickly woos her to The Beach. Bibsy chain smokes, dwells on her damaging upbringing in an orphanage run by nuns, and clings to the stability she finds with Jake and his two sons. Bibsy is both fierce and vulnerable, and Ross reveals her with great patience and delicacy. Bibsy is a character you will remember (and recognize in your own relatives and friends). Brenda Ross’ debut is oddly self-assured. If you can forget that you’re reading the work of a first-time novelist, you’ll think that you picked up the latest by an accomplished and highly regarded woman of letters. She has written an historical novel about a time and a place that few know anything about. If you read “Bibsy,” you’ll “see” The Beach the next time you cross that bridge, old or new.

 


Mary Review

Author Brenda Ross invites us along on a ride like no other in her newest release By Mary Author Brenda Ross invites us along on a ride like no other in her newest release, BIBSY. Bibsy, a young African-American woman from the south, meets up with a man who steals her heart and invites her home. They go back to “The Beach” located on a scenic section of New York’s Hudson River where Jake introduces her to his boys, his work, his life and claims her as his new love! I immediately liked and admired Bibsy, Jake and his sons; I was engaged every step of the way! Between the colorful banter and the remarkable descriptions I knew I was on a very personal journey. The characters are true and real and so is their “baggage”. Past history is so adeptly woven into their current lives that I found myself empathizing continuously with the struggles and challenges Bibsy faced. BUT, it is the sudden and surprising, completely shocking tragedy that caused the tears to flow and sadness to hit my heart. The remarkable conclusion to the story left me wanting more……….wishing for another chapter! This is a timeless MUST READ that you will never forget!

 


MAB Review

Read this book! By MAB I became interested in Bibsy because of the book’s connection to Rockland’s local history, but I became drawn in by the portrait of the character for whom the book is named. Set in the 1950s, it seems almost contemporary (to someone my age) yet it is about a community and a way of life that time has virtually obliterated. People in their progress from poverty and exclusion to prosperity and inclusion often edit their life stories, not sharing details that they consider strange, embarrassing or tragic. In this way, the flavor of those lives and times get washed away and we are left with bland generic notions of what previous generations endured and achieved. In this book, Ms. Ross has rescued and preserved a vision of African American life on the banks of the Hudson when Rockland was still rural. Once I started to read I could not stop as the story wove its way from a Maryland orphanage, through Harlem, up the Hudson River to The Beach, and then back to the unexpected and touching end. I don’t want to divulge too many details about Bibsy or her story as she lived through cold charity, Harlem high life, family complications, backwoods romance, and the inevitable push of ‘progress’. This is a book you must read.

 


Pastor Milton Review

A Real Life Story By Pastor Milton M Harris Jr. on December 16, 2015 This is one of the best books I have read. It brings back memories of the time when I didn’t worry about the world moving too fast. I remember how family and close friends were family. The cookouts and playing cards. Everyone close was either uncle or aunt, sister or brother, grandma or papa. This book is very well done. Touching lives and heart, remembering the good and the not so good.

 


Rose Garrity Review

Bibsy is a good read, engrossing and touching. By Rose Garrity This is a moving historical novel that touches the heart. The characters are easy to identify with and lead very interesting lives. Like some of the historical novels that describe the Spanish and their control by the Catholic church at the hands of the Incas and Aztecs when the so-called “discoverers” came to previously populated lands, this story also shows how brutal and “unChristian” so many of the condoned and even prescribed practices were as demanded or required by the Catholic hierarchy even in later years of the history of the United States. The history of how happily settled and productive folks who kept the brick-making industry alive and thriving, and who were then driven from their homes of generations, is one that chills and saddens us. Ms. Ross has done her research well and her warmth and caring in relating the lives of the affected characters keeps one connected to the story. I highly recommend this book.

 


Sally O. Review

A Beautifully Crafted Book By Sally O. This remarkable novel is about many things, but perhaps foremost among them is the notion of home: what makes a home a home; what lasting damage can be inflicted when someone grows up feeling like she has no home; what heartbreak can ensue when societal forces deprive a person of his home. It is also a deftly written historical novel, replete with accurate facts — particularly about the history of African Americans and racial relations in the 350 years of a metropolitan New York county’s existence. The history is woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story and told with a light touch; it serves as an historical anchor to the tale but never overpowers it or seeks to explain the actions of any of the characters. Bibsy is a fascinating and moving book, rich in themes and human emotions. It is all the more remarkable because the author accomplishes this in a spare style that relies mainly on dialog. The result is a compelling read that never bogs down. Instead, it continually gains momentum right up to the last page. This special book will not disappoint.