A “heartwarming, life-affirming” memoir of a relationship with an intellectually disabled sibling: “Read this book. It might just change your life” (Boston Herald).
Beth is a spirited woman with an intellectual disability who lives intensely and often joyfully, and spends most of her days riding the buses in Pennsylvania. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers, her community—though some display less patience or kindness than others.
Her sister, Rachel, a teacher and writer, camouflages her emotional isolation by leading a hyperbusy life. But one day, Beth asks Rachel to accompany her on public transportation for an entire year—and Rachel accepts. This wise, funny, deeply affecting book is the chronicle of that remarkable time, as Rachel learns how to live in the moment, how to pay attention to what really matters, how to change, how to love—and how to slow down and enjoy the ride.
Weaving in anecdotes and memories of terrifying maternal abandonment, fierce sisterly loyalty, and astonishing forgiveness, Rachel Simon brings to light a world that is almost invisible to many people, finds unlikely heroes in everyday life, and, without sentimentality, wrestles with her own limitations and portrays Beth as the endearing, feisty, independent person she is.
“With tenderness and fury, heartbreak and acceptance . . . Simon comes to the inescapable conclusion that we are all riders on the bus, and on the bus we are all the same.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
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.