Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Book Review: Riding the Bus with My Sister

Cover Caption: The above is the cover for the DVD of the movie based on the memoir by Rachel Simon. The cover features actresses Rosie O'Donnell and Andie MacDowell in their respective 2005 television movie roles on Riding the Bus with my Sister. One can also order the book which has a cover featuring a big tree and a little bus (rolling down a street in the background) from Amazon.

I chose to review Riding the Bus with My Sister for a graduate-level English class I had a couple of years ago because it is a popular book that dealt with a relationship built around special needs. The book was released in 2003 and a television movie was released two years later. My original review was three to five pages long, so I'll just summarize what I wrote to make for a more blog friendly post.

The bottom line is that I love this book. The author writes in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Simon portrays her sister in a way that made readers appreciate her sister Beth, a woman with mild mental retardation. Beth is portrayed as a woman with a funky fashion sense who exercises her independence by riding the bus daily. The author explores her feelings about Beth's lifestyle and comes to respect it when she starts riding along with her sister.

The best part about the book is that one can see how the relationship between the two sister's changed over a few decades. Rachel and Beth were close during their childhood, but drifted when the developmental gap widened and the author became a teenager.

The two drifted apart before a letter comes to Rachel inviting her to a plan of care review meeting for her sister. Fortunately Rachel realizes that this was Beth's way of telling her she wanted her sister back in her life. This is also the point where Rachel really takes their parents' place and becomes the primary advocate for her sister. Simon, a creative writing professor, does a great job of profiling the ups and downs the two face as they become reunited as sisters.

I also like how Simon dealt with the issues that adults with special needs face. Simon writes honestly about the challenges of living independently in terms of both family and public acceptance, public services, fertility and relationships.

In conclusion, I feel that siblings and parents of children and adults with special needs can benefit from reading this memoir. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

From the School Library Journal by Peggy Bercher (a review on Amazon's website):

"Even though Simon didn't know where it would take her, she accepted [Beth's invitation.] 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."


Jasmine said...

Looks like a beautiful book.I am going to try and find it!
Regards from Ireland

J said...

I hope you find the book. It really is a great book. Best Wishes from Michigan, USA. P.S. A friend and I are hoping to visit Ireland in the summer. Am really hoping it works out.