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Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,242 Ratings  ·  637 Reviews
In the ten years since Rachel Simon first invited the world to board the bus with her and her sister, Cool Beth, readers across the globe have been moved by their story. Now, in an updated edition, Rachel Simon reflects on changes in her life, Beth's life, and the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The highlight is Beth's update, which i ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin (first published January 1st 2002)
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Cynthia McCloud
Sep 05, 2011 Cynthia McCloud rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2016 Reese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 11, 2014 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 07, 2008 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 09, 2010 j marked it as to-not-read-ever  ·  review of another edition
Kelly Hager
Mar 30, 2013 Kelly Hager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dawn Michelle

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
Jun 29, 2014 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Claudia Staude
Oct 02, 2014 Claudia Staude rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
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
Shari Larsen

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
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
Sep 21, 2008 Kellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2012 Heidi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 27, 2008 Little rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2011 Nelly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2010 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 27, 2012 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2015 Arlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a ride it was for Rachel Simon, whose developmentally disabled sister, Beth, invited her to ride buses for a year around the city in Pennsylvania in which she lived. Bus riding was Beth's self-appointed life work, and she thought that Rachel needed to see the positive side of her work. Rachel saw both the positive and negative sides of Beth's daily journeys and in this book, gave a full account of them, and also included the trials and tribulations her family experienced as Beth grew into a ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Stefanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me awhile to get into this book. (Though that is kind of typical for me). At first, the author came across as a bit self-absorbed and uninformed about issues related to people with disabilities. I was put off by some of the language used (mental retardation, not person first language). But it becomes clear that the author was speaking from her view point at the time and she later becomes a great advocate for people with disabilities. I also found some of the long descriptions of conversa ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly enlightening book and should be read by educators, students and families of those with special needs. Rachel spent a year documenting her sister's life and trying to understand her. What she learns teaches her more about herself than her sister. She eventually "gets a life" and an advocation helping others understand and respect the mentally handicapped.

I had an updated version of the book that includes materials on where the main characters are ten years later which was a big he
Lenore Pettinger
Nov 12, 2014 Lenore Pettinger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the November, 2014 non-fiction book selection for the Glenview IL Public Library. A very thoughtful look into the mostly independent life of a young lady with developmental disabilities as seen through the eyes of her sister.

Rachel, 11-months older than Beth, has a very spotty emotional history with her sister ranging from very loving to very infuriating. One of my friends has a sister and a daughter who fall into the same category as Beth. I see these same thoughts and behavior pa
Riding The Bus with My Sister is an autobiography written by Rachel Simon. This book is a memoir of Rachel riding the bus with her older sister Beth. Beth is mental retardation. Rachel always tries to help her out everywhere anywhere. I rated this book 3 stars because I think it's not my style, like it's not that interesting in my opinion.Many people will love this book because it's a true life journey.

Beth has a boyfriend named Jesse and doesn't have a job because of her mental retardation. Rac
Apr 12, 2014 Judie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rachel and Beth Simon, born eleven months apart, were the middle children of a family with four children. From the time of her birth, their parents knew Beth was different and, after seeking a lot of medical attention, learned that she had mild mental retardation. They raised her to do as much as she could while letting her siblings know that they were not going to hide her and that each of them would also have responsibility for her.
That was easier said than done. The family was seriously bro
May 13, 2009 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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.
Mar 23, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is about a woman who develops a closer relationship with her sister, who is cognitively impaired, while riding a bus with her for a year. The woman learns as much about herself as she does about her sister, and her sister's life and support system. Weaved into the story is the author's past, mostly relating to her mother and father's failed marriage and subsequent relationships, especially the mother's. The relationship that develops between Beth and her sister is touching, and heartb ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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.
Mar 08, 2015 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember hearing years ago about the TV movie starring Rosie O'Donnell that was based on this book, and that I might like to read the book (though I probably worked the night of the movie because I didn't end up watching it), but had forgotten about it until I came upon a copy of the book at our gym's book swap. Simon is a journalist who is coming off a long-term relationship with a man she truly thought was 'the one' and feeling a bit of writer's block when she is invited to the annual 'care ...more
Ann M
Dec 21, 2014 Ann M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this on the recommendation of a friend – and found it to be a very compelling and fascinating story. It's the true story of a woman, Beth, with Down Syndrome, who spends her days riding the buses of an unnamed northeastern city. Her non-disabled sister, from whom she has been somewhat estranged, agrees to come and do the same with her once a month. The story is the recounting of that experience. It really helps you get inside the life and psyche of a disabled person - in this case a woman ...more
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Smith Public Library: July 23, 6:30 PM 2 12 Jul 24, 2012 10:23AM  
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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 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.” 5 likes
“... she's sad a lot. She's sad in the way Laura wears glasses and Max has freckles and Beth is retarded. There's no reason, it's just the way it is.” 3 likes
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