Friday, May 14, 2021

Book Review: Just Get Home

By Jami Denison

No place is truly safe in the United States. Here in Florida we have hurricanes and flash floods. In the north, blizzards. And in California, wildfires and earthquakes. The thing about earthquakes is, with every other type of natural disaster, there’s a warning. We have days to drive away from hurricanes. But earthquakes—you never know one is coming until it’s too late to do anything but pray. 

Residents of California have worried about the Big One for decades, and it’s the subject of author Bridget Foley’s second novel, Just Get Home. In it, we follow two third-person protagonists who are stranded in downtown L.A. after a major earthquake strikes. Fifteen-year-old Beejie is on a bus headed back to her alcoholic foster mother. Single mom Dessa has just left a club, and is looking for her car in order to drive home to her three-year-old daughter. Then the shaking starts, roads buckle, buildings collapse, and suddenly we’re in Thunderdome territory. 

With cell phone towers down and her car destroyed, Dessa has no choice but to try to walk the twenty miles to her apartment in Van Nuyes. When a series of coincidences put Beejie in her path, the two team up to try to get home safely. 

On the surface, Just Get Home is a fast-paced, “unputdownable” thriller about two women trying to get through the night in a dangerous city when all the usual lifelines are cut. Look deeper, though, and it’s about much more. A victim of a horrible foster care system, Beejie is a Black girl who has learned her body is not her own, and she’s continually punished for the choices of people who treat her like she’s less than human. And Dessa’s single motherhood is not by choice, although it doesn’t become clear until near the end of the book what the situation is with her daughter’s father. They have more in common than it first seems. Racial tension also factors in; Dessa is a white woman wearing diamonds and a sparkly dress trying to get through a mostly Black neighborhood, trying not to judge people based on skin color (but not always succeeding.) And Beejie has been let down by a series of white women before; why would Dessa be any different?

Foley paints a vivid description of a Los Angeles that quickly becomes post-Apocalyptic. As Dessa tried to find her way home, walking on broken L.A. highways and sidewalks, I couldn’t help but picture my own neighborhoods and streets, wondering if I’d be able to find my way home if stranded twenty miles away. In Florida we’re told to stock up on supplies in a hurricane kit as soon as hurricane season starts. After reading Just Get Home, you’ll want to buy a disaster-preparedness kit for your office, house, and car. Comfortable walking shoes are a must. 

Thanks to MIRA for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Bridget Foley:

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