Riding the Bus With My Sister: A True-Life Journey by Rachel Simon

riding the bus

Riding the Bus With My Sister: A True-Life Journey by Rachel Simon

Rachel Simon, a writer and teacher, agrees to accompany her slightly younger sister Beth, when she rides city buses around the Pennsylvania city where she lives. Beth, who has mild mental retardation, lives on her own with income from SSI and started riding the buses after losing her job busing tables at a fast food restaurant. As Rachel makes a commitment to return regularly for a year to ride the buses with Beth, she gets to know the drivers Beth likes and doesn’t like, her caseworkers, her boyfriend Jesse and her routine. Rachel admires Beth for her feistiness and independence, but gets impatient, exasperated and angry with Beth’s stubbornness, especially when she puts her health or safety at risk. Rachel also feels humbled by the way some drivers look after Beth and form a safety net for her. Interspersed with the current account are vignettes from their family history, including their parents’ separation and divorce and the children’s subsequent division between their parents.

The author recounts how both parents have taught all the siblings to have a sense of responsibility for Beth and how she herself personally struggles sometimes to be a “good sister,” even when she loses her patience with Beth. This honest narrative of the challenges of accepting Beth as she is, while trying to live her own life, reminds the reader of the importance of family, friends and community. Every reader will find life lessons in this book.

Here’s a clip from the made-for-tv movie:

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

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