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Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey [Paperback]

Rachel Simon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Paperback, Aug. 26 2003 CDN $15.88  
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Book Description

Aug. 26 2003

Beth is a spirited woman with mental retardation, who spends nearly every day riding the buses in Philadelphia. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. When Beth asks her sister Rachel to accompany her on the buses for one year, they take a transcendent journey together that changes Rachel's life in incredible ways and leads her to accept her sister at long last—teaching her to slow down and enjoy the ride.

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)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-When she received an invitation to her mentally retarded sister's annual Plan of Care review, Simon realized that this was Beth's way of attempting to bring her back into her life. Beth challenged the author to give a year of her life to riding "her" buses with her. Even though Simon didn't know where it would take her, she accepted. During that time, she came to see her sister as a person in her own right with strong feelings about how she wanted to live her life, despite what others thought. Not everyone on the buses, drivers or passengers, liked or even tolerated Beth, and it shamed the author to realize that she sometimes felt the same way about her sibling. As the year passed, Simon came to the realization that "No one can be a good sister all the time. I can only try my best. Just because I am not a saint does not mean that I am a demon." The time together became a year of personal discovery, of acceptance, and of renewed sibling love and closeness. Clear writing and repeated conversations allow readers to hear the voices of both sisters. There is much to mull over, to enjoy, and to savor in this book.
Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Wake up," my sister Beth says. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Laughable! Aug. 21 2003
By A Customer
It's really sad how something can be so one-sided. I happen to know who Beth is and have lived in the same town she does, for many years. While her sister, the author of this book, makes it look like only a handful of busdrivers and fellow passengers are annoyed by Beth, it's really the other way around. The majority of drivers and passengers do NOT like her.
Don't get me wrong--they sympathize with the fact that she is mentally retarded; however, that doesn't mean she's stupid. She knows full-well what she is doing and saying, and it seems she loves to irk people by boasting and bragging that she "doesn't have to work" while all the rest of us are on our way to work when we hear this on the bus.
Being a witness to what Beth does, daily, it bothers me that the readers of this book will think she is some type of "hero" or that she is well-loved. Neither is true. I've witnessed an elderly man send her blocks away to buy him a soda, just so she would MISS the bus they were both waiting for. He didn't want to put up with her on the ride home. If you're into fairy tales, I guess this is the book for you!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% Truthfull Sept. 10 2003
I am one of the bus drivers mentioned in the book and can testify to the fact that this book tells the truth about how Beth, the handicaped sister, acts on the bus and how others treat her. It also addresses the fact that people like to belittle her. People do struggle with the rather new fact that the handicaped are more free than in the past. This book addresses that. The book is a great light for all of us to follow. Beth's sister is led to the path of acceptance and love and out of the darkness of misunderstanding. Reading this book will do the same for anyone with an open heart. Highly recomended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful read......a book worth the money April 24 2003
By A Customer
this book teaches a great deal about self-determination in everyone's lives it is one of the best memoirs I ever read in my 12 years of living ~Rachel touches our hearts with the true words of her life with what she once overcame with her sister Beth~ She teaches and learns herself to be more open in the world around her as I did learn to ~This is one book you should neve regret reading, as I did once but came to enjoy it~ Through her book you reach the sad ends where it makes you cry, the happy ends where it makes you smile and the funny ends where it makes you laugh...this book touched my heart dearly~
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Can Relate Feb. 24 2003
By A Customer
My mother mentioned this book to me after hearing the author interviewed on NPR. I thought she'd read it. She's usually read everything. I found it at the library, took it home, and read it in one sitting. I am the oldest of three sisters. The second oldest is MMR and wasn't actually diagnosed until the age of 18. I was four when Mom brought her home from the hospital and I remember wondering if we could send her back.
Working in the transportation industry along with having a sister who is developmentally disabled, I was bound to like this book. My favorite part was Rachel's realization of what self-determination actually means. My family and I struggle with this in regards to my sister and her choices.
I plan to buy this book for my boss as my one year anniversary present to myself. Every bus driver who drives the public and/or the disabled should be required to read it.
This book showed me that as a sibling of a woman with developmental disabilities I am not alone. Thanks Rachel!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well done Nov. 10 2004
I read this book after a recommendation and at first, I'll admit, the story line did not interest me. However, I soon found this to be a uniquely told story of the challenges of having a mentally-challenged individual in one's life. While the main story line is about a mentally-challenged sister, the underlying story line consists of the author's revelation that her sister seems to have a more well-adjusted life than her. I enjoyed her honest revelations and the skillful way she described each bus driver and of course, her sister.
From the author of The Difference Now.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Finding Myself June 1 2004
By A Customer
Rachel Simon is a woman in her late 30's to early 40's, living alone. She is unhappy with herself and lifestyle, which consists of writing and teaching all day long in Philadelphia. Beth, her sister with mental retardation, invites Rachel to attend her "Plan of Care" meeting, just after Rachel writes an article about riding the bus with sister, Beth. Just after this scheduled meeting, Beth challenges Rachel to ride the bus with her for a year, but they agree to two times a week for a year. This also meant sleeping over at Beth's apartment on sofa cushions that were set up on the floor. On these bus rides, Rachel learns little "facts of life" lessons from each of the bus drivers that Beth shares her rides with. Rachel is soon to realize and accepts just who her sister and herself truly is. She understands and learns to be content, to work at her faults to make them better, and not to be afraid of what leads her to happiness.
A few things I didn't like about this book was that it was slow at times. The book's progress in dialog could have been hindered by my lack of understanding at the beginning of the book and because it was confusing. Another possibility could be because I was confused by one of the extra books changing of tense from present to past childhood memories. I didn't like the fact that Rachel was shallow at times. Rachel also had a hard time accepting her sister for who she was and was too afraid of everyone else's thoughts.
There are much more positives, than I had dislikes about. This book ends with a happy note and Rachel changes. Rachel learns how to be happy, and camas's to find out that she wasn't the only one with siblings that have mental disabilities. Beth Also changes, she learns that she words can hurt more than she thinks they will. Beth sees how being difficult and stubborn pushes her family away. In conclusion, I liked this book a lot and would recommend it to family with a disabled person.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Honesty Transforms Potentially Clichéd Tale
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great book club book
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Highly Engrossing, Nontraditional Memoir
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5.0 out of 5 stars quick read
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