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Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey

Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey

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3.76

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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 is in her own words. A new reader's guide is also included. Join these two unforgettable sisters on their journey, this time in an even deeper and richer way.

Rachel Simon’s sister Beth is a spirited woman who lives intensely and often joyfully. Beth, who has an intellectual disability, spends her days riding the buses in her unnamed Pennsylvania city. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. One day, Beth asks Rachel to accompany her on the buses for an entire year. This wise, funny, deeply affecting true story is the chronicle of that remarkable time. Rachel, a writer and college teacher whose hyperbusy life camouflaged her emotional isolation, had much to learn in her sister’s extraordinary world. Full of life lessons from which any reader will profit, Riding the Bus with My Sister is "a heartwarming, life-affirming journey through both the present and the past . . . [that] might just change your life" (Boston Herald)
 
Elegantly woven throughout the odyssey are riveting memories of terrifying maternal abandonment, fierce sisterly loyalty, and astonishing forgiveness. Rachel Simon brings to light the almost invisible world of adults with developmental disabilities, finds unlikely heroes in everyday life, and, without sentimentality, portrays Beth as the endearing, feisty, independent person she is. This heartwarming memoir about the unbreakable bond between two very different sisters takes the reader on an inspirational journey at once unique and universal.
 
Riding the Bus with My Sister was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Rosie O'Donnell and Andie McDowell, and directed by Anjelica Huston.

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 is in her own words. A new reader's guide is also included. Join these two unforgettable sisters on their journey, this time in an even deeper and richer way.

Rachel Simon’s sister Beth is a spirited woman who lives intensely and often joyfully. Beth, who has an intellectual disability, spends her days riding the buses in her unnamed Pennsylvania city. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. One day, Beth asks Rachel to accompany her on the buses for an entire year. This wise, funny, deeply affecting true story is the chronicle of that remarkable time. Rachel, a writer and college teacher whose hyperbusy life camouflaged her emotional isolation, had much to learn in her sister’s extraordinary world. Full of life lessons from which any reader will profit, Riding the Bus with My Sister is "a heartwarming, life-affirming journey through both the present and the past . . . [that] might just change your life" (Boston Herald)
 
Elegantly woven throughout the odyssey are riveting memories of terrifying maternal abandonment, fierce sisterly loyalty, and astonishing forgiveness. Rachel Simon brings to light the almost invisible world of adults with developmental disabilities, finds unlikely heroes in everyday life, and, without sentimentality, portrays Beth as the endearing, feisty, independent person she is. This heartwarming memoir about the unbreakable bond between two very different sisters takes the reader on an inspirational journey at once unique and universal.
 
Riding the Bus with My Sister was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Rosie O'Donnell and Andie McDowell, and directed by Anjelica Huston.

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Publish date: Aug 26, 2002
Added to Scribd: Mar 18, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780547344843
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Publishers Weekly reviewed this
This perceptive, uplifting chronicle shows how much Simon, a creative writing professor at Bryn Mawr College, had to learn from her mentally retarded sister, Beth, about life, love and happiness. Beth lives independently and is in a long-term romantic relationship, but perhaps the most surprising thing about her, certainly to her (mostly) supportive family, is how she spends her days riding buses. Six days a week (the buses don't run on Sundays in her unnamed Pennsylvania city), all day, she cruises around, chatting up her favorite drivers, dispensing advice and holding her ground against those who find her a nuisance. Rachel joined Beth on her rides for a year, a few days every two weeks, in an attempt to mend their distanced relationship and gain some insight into Beth's daily life. She wound up learning a great deal about herself and how narrowly she'd been seeing the world. Beth's community within the transit system is a much stronger network than the one Rachel has in her hectic world, and some of the portraits of drivers and the other people in Beth's life are unforgettable. Rachel juxtaposes this with the story of their childhood, including the dissolution of their parents' marriage and the devastating abandonment by their mother, the effect of which is tied poignantly to the sisters' present relationship. Although she is honest about the frustrations of relating to her stubborn sister, Rachel comes to a new appreciation of her, and it is a pleasure for readers to share in that discovery. Agent, Anne Edelstein. (Aug. 26) Forecast: A blurb from Rosie O'Donnell and an author tour should pique women readers' interest. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

2002-06-17, Publishers Weekly
capfox reviewed this
Rated 4/5
One of the worst kinds of literature, to my mind, are the ones where your main character is a busy person, trying to succeed, doing their best to make the most of their lives, and then they are exposed to wise old sage / intelligent animal / precocious child / disabled veteran. And then they learn the true value of life, and hurrah, hurrah, their minds are forever changed for the better, and they love the world. Urgh, the trite pastiness of it. And then those books end up super popular, and you hear about them everywhere: this will change your life! You just sigh internally. I picked up this book because my mom recommended it, and she usually has good taste, but I look at the blurbs on the cover ("it touched my soul" - Rosie O'Donnell) and I read the first twenty pages, and I worry.But - and thankfully, there's a but - the story doesn't pan out that way. This memoir details the year that Rachel Simon spent with her sister with mild mental retardation around on the buses in her sister's small Pennsylvania city. A few years before the time detailed in the book, Beth, her sister, took up riding around the buses of the town all day, chatting with the drivers and learning all the routes and the timetables, to the degree where she serves as a backup resource for new employees, getting access to the driver's room, etc. Not all of the drivers take to her, but enough do, and she feels as if she's found her place.Rachel had not been close with her sister for some time, but when Beth reached out to her and invited her to spend a year riding with the buses with her, she decided to take time out of her schedule to take up the offer, alongside her classes and writing. The memoir goes along month by month, for the days she's out there with her sister, with the chapters for each month generally including some riding around with a particular driver on the bus, each with different views on the world, jocular, heavy, contemplative, religious, trying to help Beth, or not; and then also some time off the bus, and then finally about the history of the Simon family and dealing with Beth through the years.It's actually a very easy read, and the different profiles of the bus drivers, intelligent, thoughtful folk (for the ones that get profiled; Simon notes they're not all like that), add some nice variety. But the most interesting part of it is Simon's coming to grapple with her sister and her life, and what it means for her to be a good sister, and a more open person. Simon turned away from her sister some when she was growing up, but she didn't even really know what it meant for people to have the sort of disability her sister has. She hadn't done the research on it until during the year in question, and she hadn't tried to understand her sister's place in life, why she wanted to ride the buses, the level of self-determination she has.The overall trend in care for those with mental retardation has been to give them more control over their lives, and the book shows both the plusses and minuses of this system - Beth makes her decision about how to make her life fulfilling, but she makes her own bad decisions, too, and it's hard for her sister to watch. But she does get a lot more respect for her sister, and eventually, the feeling becomes more mutual. Beth's fiercely independent, but they do manage to make it work out between them, so that they each have their place with the other.I actually did come to enjoy this book after the beginning. It's a more complex story, written clearly and with enough emotion to become invested. I learned much about the toughness of the situation, the complexity of living with someone with a real cognitive disability, but that they're really still a complete, full person. Realizing that is hard even when you're in the situation; even with my mom being a special ed teacher, I have a hard time remembering this sometimes.Anyway, it is an interesting, informative, and, yes, heart-warming read. But not in that bad way. In a better one.
lkernagh reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Winner of the 2003 American Book Award, Riding the Bus With My Sister is a memoir that grew out of a request made by Beth, Rachel's sister. Beth is a woman in her late 30's, born with mental disabilities and spends her days - and schedules her life around - riding the buses in her Pennsylvania city. What started out as a one day adventure for Rachel to write an article for a newspaper about Beth's bus riding became, at Beth's request, a 12 month journey, a few days a month, where Rachel would put her busy -and empty - life schedule on hold to visit Beth and ride the buses with her. Over the course of that year, Rachel gets to know: the bus drivers that come to represent Beth's life coaches; Beth's care workers/aides that are part of the system that supports Beth's independent living as a disabled individual; and Beth's boyfriend, Jesse. Seeing the world through Beth's eyes is a challenging and at times frustrating experience for Rachel who is also struggling to find meaning in her own life. Interspersed between the chapters of this year long journey are chapters written in italicizes - flashbacks to Rachel and Beth's childhood years. For me, the flashbacks help provide context for the relationship Beth has with her family but I preferred the chapters of the conversations with the bus drivers and Rachel's own journey of self realization. The information Rachel gleans from her research on "mental age", mental disabilities and self-determination are basic backgrounders for anyone new to this information. Rachel's growing realization of Beth's life - that she has a network of friends and a community of support - serves a greater purpose: to try and draw attention to and remove some of the existing stereotypes of individuals with what are classified as 'mild' mental disabilities.An interesting and different type of memoir containing some good life lessons that has been sitting on my TBR bookcase since September 2009. Overall, I am glad I pulled this one off the shelf and finally got around to reading it.
debnance_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
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.
tjsjohanna_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
This is a memoir that reads like a novel - in a good way. Ms. Simon has interwoven her year riding the bus with her sister, who is mentally disabled, with memories of her past and her family. Both narratives serve to enrich and shed light on each other. This is as much a book about Ms. Simon's own growth as it is about her sister, Beth. And really, isn't that what people are in the end - who they are because of who they spend time with, who they live with and around. A very rewarding read.
touchthesky_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I enjoyed the flashbacks, that were written in italics, better than the *current* story. The book is full of insight and enlightening moments that should be shared by all. However, I felt that the story was more about Rachel than Beth. Rachel's writing probably didn't have the same affect as on me, since I have family members with cognitive disabilities...but not a sibling. But, Rachel informs us about many life lessons that all of us should learn. A very interesting read.
readerspeak_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
When I first heard of this book, I decided I didn't want to read it. What could the story really be about? One afternoon I picked it up and couldn't stop reading. It pulled me in right away. It was neat to see how the author learned more and more about her sister's abilities and learned to see her for who she is, not who she could be. And it was also brutally sad to find out more about their history growing up, how their mother fought to treat everyone equally until she couldn't cope any more. I do recommend this book to anyone who is a mother or sister, and especially anyone who has a family member with a mental disability.
kathysoper reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Scholarly, emotionally stunted older sister spends a year getting to know her mentally disabled sibling through shared journeys on the public transit system. Beautiful writing, beautiful meaning.
caitlinef_1 reviewed this
Rated 2/5
I found this memoir captivating and heartbreaking. The author writes of her experiences riding the public bus system all day for a year, as a gift to her mentally ill sister. Rachel tries to deal with her sister Beth's impatient, rude, and stubborn nature, in an attempt to learn about the illness, and about Beth. Along this journey, Rachel is faced with an inner struggle, as she can not understand how her sister can be so open to people, while she buries herself in work and hides from forming real relationships. Through many fights and misunderstandings, the two sisters eventually learn to accept each other for who they really are, despite their differences. This memoir has a good message, however it is hard to get into, and can be dull at times. Rachel comes off as self- centered and annoying in several cases, but the story is worth reading if you have a sister.
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