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Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey

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3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  4,742 Ratings  ·  699 Reviews
Rachel Simon's sister Beth is a spirited woman who lives intensely and often joyfully, despite her intellectual disability. Beth spends her days riding the buses in her Pennsylvania city. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. One day, Beth asked Rachel to accompany her on the buses for an entire year; the book is the chronic ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 26th 2003 by Plume (first published January 1st 2002)
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Misty Mount
Apr 09, 2017 Misty Mount rated it liked it
With a special needs sister myself, I have to confess this book was a little disappointing. I wasn't very impressed with Rachel's attitude toward her sister. Maybe I just hoped she'd have the loving, unbreakable bond that I do with mine. Having my own sister, just the way she is, has made a positive impact on our family and my life and I was hoping this story would share a similar tale. It wasn't all bad though and there were definitely many parts I enjoyed.
Cynthia McCloud
Sep 05, 2011 Cynthia McCloud rated it really liked it
We who grow up with family members with mental retardation have a blindspot like Rachel Simon. We think we "know" what MR is -- we live with it every day! But as Rachel discovers at the end of her journey, MR is a catchall term for the many things that can go wrong in a person's brain and development. And each person who is diagnosed with MR is still an individual with different abilities -- some skills stronger than others -- despite the label that lumps them altogether.

I regret not reading thi
...more
Darcy Leech
Sep 20, 2015 Darcy Leech rated it it was amazing
Riding the Bus with My Sister is an inspiring read for a fellow typical sibling of a loved one with a disability. Rachel Simon serves as an inspiration for me in that she is able to use her gifts and talents to not only interact well with her sister Beth, but also to inspire and inform others with her honest true story. Having the ability to read and write when my brother did not was sometimes a complicated feeling. Some of the guilt Rachel Simon implicitly reveals is similar to what I have felt ...more
Reese
Oct 02, 2010 Reese rated it really liked it
My desire to review Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey persists. So does my reluctance to review it. I have not, unlike Rachel Simon, spent entire days, during the course of a year, riding city buses with a "mentally retarded" sister. But Rachel Simon's emotional responses to her sister's words, choices, and circumstances remind me of my reactions to a sister who -- from where I sit on "Mt. Judgment" -- has a social skills deficit. Hence my resistance to discussing a work that de ...more
Dawn Michelle


WOW! WOW! WOW!
This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. This is also a book that will stay on my "read" shelf here at my house because I think I will need to visit it again and again to remind myself what grace and love really look like and just how families CAN heal after all.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. It's a book about love, sisters, family and ALL the crazy that goes along with those.

Rachel and her sister Beth are amazing and the lessons that Beth teaches Rachel
...more
Anna
Sep 27, 2011 Anna rated it liked it
I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would. I was a afraid it would be trite. I did get a little bit tired of the narratives about the drivers. What I liked the most were the sections on the family history. I found it really moving how she quietly told the story.

"At boarding school, I sit late at night on friends' beanbag chairs, discussing my most feared scenarios about Beth's fate, keeping my listeners awake until they exile me to my room. I have no idea what is happening- there
...more
Kelly
Sep 19, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it
I'm only about halfway through with this book, but it is such an endearing story about a woman (writer) who takes time off from her normal schedule to literally ride the bus with her mentally challenged sister(Beth)for one year. She discovers not only Beth's challenges, but the numerous ways that she is brave, industrious, self-sufficient and "normal."

The relationship between the sister's, as well as that of Beth and the drivers, lends to a heart-warming story that is truthful and does not alwa
...more
j
Apr 09, 2010 j marked it as to-not-read-ever
DO YOU LIKE MARSHMALLOWS?!? ME TOO!!
Kelly Hager
Mar 27, 2013 Kelly Hager rated it really liked it
This is an anniversary edition with new content. (There's an essay from Beth and some "Where Are They Now?" material, for example, as well as resources and more information.)

This is one of those books that I had always meant to read, and I was very happy that Hachette allowed me to read this for review. :)

I admire Rachel Simon so much for writing this book, because she's very up front about her feelings and the fact that she's not always a good sister to Beth. (To be fair, I think she's a better
...more
Nelly
Sep 07, 2011 Nelly rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... Oh, what... huh?? I got to page 88 and I'm done with this thing. Boooooooooring. I guess I'm just not a fan of feel-good true stories that teach me lessons about life. After the 3rd (or so) bus driver gave his uninterrupted, full-page monologue about the life lessons he's learned and that he's passing on to Rachel Simon, I decided enough's enough. Somehow I have trouble believing that this is exactly how things happened. And I think I'm done learning lessons. 1)Be nice. 2 ...more
Jen
Jul 01, 2008 Jen rated it it was ok
Just...eh.

Some good parts, but mostly I didn't care much for the author. For some reason I just couldn't relate to her. I was waiting for some grand realizations and really deep thoughts on having a sibling with a disability, but, aside from a few hints, this book failed to give it. Also, it was tied up much too neatly and perfectly at the end, which drives me crazy.

Worth reading, I guess, but if you're looking for a life-changing book on disability issues, this isn't it.
Leah (packfan20)
I WANT TO GET OFF THE BUS!!!! Please!! This book just went on and on and on... I get it was a memoir but I felt like this would have been better off in a journal not published. It was like, "I had a rough life...and oh my sister...feel sorry for me...but I'm okay now." It was probably cathartic for Simon but boring for me.

(I did read Simon's The Story of Beautiful Girl and it was wonderful.)
Kellie
Sep 21, 2008 Kellie rated it it was amazing
This is a story about Rachel, sister of “Cool Beth”. Beth is mildly retarded. She lives on her own and lives on disability. She doesn’t have a job. She rides the local buses in her Pennsylvania city, every day. Looking for something to write about, Rachel decides to visit her sister and spend a day with her. This leads to an article in the newspaper. The experience has surprised Rachel and it has sparked a new relationship with Beth. So, Rachel decides to “Ride the bus with her sister” and she d ...more
Shari Larsen
Sep 07, 2014 Shari Larsen rated it it was amazing

This memoir follows one year in the lives of Rachel and her developmentally disabled sister Beth, (or as she calls herself, Cool Beth.) Beth spends hers days riding the city buses, and in an effort to get closer to her sister and understand her better, Rachel agrees to spend a year riding the buses with Beth (one or two days per week.)


As she rides the buses with Beth, and gets to know the drivers, she discovers during the year she is learning as much about herself as she is about her sister, and
...more
Little
Feb 02, 2008 Little rated it liked it
I have an acquaintance (let's call her "Mary") who decided back when we were in 8th grade that she was going to be a welfare queen like her mom and grandma. She currently has a couple of kids, is morbidly obese, and is living the life she dreamed of way back then. So I suppose you can legitimately ask the question, why should someone be forced to be a productive member of society just because they have a disability? I mean, Mary has chosen to simply live off of taxpayer dollars and not contribut ...more
Judy
This story was everything I expected based on the title and summary on the back cover, but it was also more than expected. The relationship, past and present, between sisters Rachel and Beth, was really the main story. Beth's developmental disabilities make her unique -- at times very obsessive, loud in appearance and speech, illogical, obstinant, unaware of herself, and childish. Rachel, 11 months older, is not disabled in the ways that Beth is, but she is depressed and has been depressed for a ...more
Heidi
May 18, 2012 Heidi rated it liked it
This memoir follows a year in the life of the author as she attempts to reconnect with her developmentally delayed sister, who spends nearly every waking moment riding public transportation and seeing life through the eyes of the bus drivers. The book splits into sections, with a modern day chapter followed by a look to the past describing the sisters' childhoods. Each of these flashback sections is told in the voice of her age at the time, so the earliest ones are told from a child's perspectiv ...more
Patty
I am not sure what I expected from this book. I was looking for a different title at my library and this caught my eye. It seemed interesting, so I brought it home. Interesting is a good word for this memoir.

I truly thought it would be about Simon and her sister as their relationship was in 2002. What I did not realize, but probably should was that their story was not that simple. Simon had issues with her family, especially her mother, that she needed to deal with. so that became part of her ta
...more
Wanda
Jun 29, 2014 Wanda rated it really liked it
I have two cousins who are mentally retarded (my age) and I grew up with them. This book was a reflection of the challenges the mentally retarded meet every day while trying to cope in a world that has left them behind as their (I) paymates mentally matured and "moved on" to their (my) adult world of different challenges. As I read, I empathized with both Rachel and Beth for the "mental" jail both of them were in. I applaude the author for striking out in her challenge of connecting with Beth vi ...more
Claudia Staude
Sep 14, 2014 Claudia Staude rated it it was amazing
This book was fascinating to me! I read it on the recc of the librarian at the school where I work. (I love librarians, don't you!?) She told me how it moved her to really think about life and how we evaluate what makes a "good life". The main characters are a pair of sisters; the elder is workaholic, conflicted author and the younger is a woman who deals with being mildly mentally delayed. What the older one learns from the younger one about acceptance and coming to find true joy in life is, to ...more
Jillaire
Jun 24, 2012 Jillaire rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I'd give this 2.5 stars. I didn't think it was a great read, but it did have some interesting lessons and people in it that really made you think. Essentially, this is a memoir. Rachel Simon's sister, Beth, is a woman with mental retardation who spends her days riding city buses. While the family thinks Beth is simply wasting her time and life, as Rachel rides with her one day every 2 weeks or so for an entire year, she learns that in riding the buses Beth has found a community of friends and te ...more
Bretigne Shaffer
Jan 28, 2014 Bretigne Shaffer rated it really liked it
I am still in the middle of this, but just had to say how much I am loving it. Like another reviewer, I expected it to be trite, and the first few pages reinforced that expectation: Another feel-good story about the oh-too-busy for human connection career-driven sister who spends some time with her mentally handicapped sister and is awakened to the true meaning of life. Yawn.

THIS BOOK IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. Please read it. It is a wonderful book about connecting with another person, with ins
...more
Natalie
Apr 15, 2010 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Wow! What an incredible book and inspiring true story. I am so thankful that the author was willing to open up this glimpse of herself and the year she shared on the bus with her sister, Beth. Beth is mentally handicapped and marches to the beat of her own drum. Rachel, her older sister and the author, has returned to make peace with her sister after a long falling out, and in the face of struggles in her own life. Throughout the chapters of the lessons learned during the bus rides, Rachel also ...more
Amy
The first part of this really grabbed my attention. An interesting story, but, like Rachel, i found myself frustrated at times with Beth. The interplay of the present day story with the family background was interesting, though it did get painful as the family's disfunction came to the fore. As the book wore on, it became more of a catharsis for RAchel to work out her feelings about life, her relationship with Sam and her feelings about Beth. I imagine the original article that prompted the book ...more
Leanne Sarubbi
Feb 26, 2010 Leanne Sarubbi rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2010
Although it was a nice story, this book was a disappointment. I didn't feel emotionally attached to the characters, and the writing felt sort of flat. And while I'm sure for the sake of the book, the author didn't write about the hours and hours in which nothing profound was said by the bus drivers, it just seemed odd and unrealistic that the drivers would be so philosophical and spiritual and stuff every time they opened their mouths. It was quite predictible, too, and I was quite bored halfway ...more
Julie
Jul 27, 2012 Julie rated it liked it
As the mother of a special needs child seeking to better understand and love my child, I found this book helpful but sad at times. It contained lot of adult issues for the cognitively challenged that I just hadn't thought of with my four year, like self-determination and how to deal with their adult relationships. Definitely shed some tears. The author is at times admirable and other times I thought she was condescending or selfish. She'd probably admit this herself. Overall, I'd say this book w ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 26, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
What a great bus ride! Did Beth ever turn the tables on Rachel! Rachel agrees to meet up with Beth every month and ride the buses with her, something Beth loves to do. Beth is mentally disabled and Rachel feels she will be helping her sister. And she does, in a way. But, more, Rachel learns from Beth and from Beth's mentors, the bus drivers, the really important things in life that Beth knows and Rachel has always missed.
Maggie
Nov 09, 2011 Maggie rated it really liked it
This book was much more than I expected it to be. Besides being a very interesting look into the complex relationship of two close-in-age sisters, it was educational about mental retardation and how it affects the personality as well as IQ status. I was amazed at Simon's patience and persistence, and have great respect for all she did to keep her sister so close.
Jason
Jun 30, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely charming, enlightening and lovely memoir!
Holly
Aug 21, 2007 Holly rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: junior high and high school students and Special Education teachers
I'm sure the story was heartfelt but I couldn't get into this. I was bored. The writing was very basic and parts of the story were cute but I never finished it and I thought it was predictable.
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Smith Public Library: July 23, 6:30 PM 2 13 Jul 24, 2012 10:23AM  
yes! 4 34 May 10, 2012 08:34AM  
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Rachel Simon is the author of six books.

The Story of Beautiful Girl
The House On Teacher's Lane
Riding The Bus With My Sister
The Writer's Survival Guide
The Magic Touch
Little Nightmares Little Dreams

In 2005, Hallmark Hall of Fame adapted Riding The Bus With My Sister for a film by the same name. It starred Rosie O'Donnell as Rachel's sister Beth and Andie MacDowell as Rachel, and it was directed by A
...more
More about Rachel Simon...

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“Happiness, I have grasped, is a destination, like strawberry Fields. Once you find the way in, there you are, and you'll never feel low again.” 6 likes
“Maybe we are all Beths, boarding other people's life journeys, or letting them hop aboard ours. For a while we ride together. A few minutes, a few miles. Companions on the road, sharing our air and our view, our feet swaying to the same beat. Then you get off at your stop, or I get off at mine. Unless we decide to stay on longer together.
p 251”
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