Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Riding the Bus with My Sister

I expected to like this book much better than I did. This is the story of Rachel Simon and her developmentally-disabled sister, Beth. Beth spends her days riding city transit buses. In an effort to become closer to her sister Rachel decides to spend time with her, riding the bus. Doing so forces Rachel to come to terms with all of her complicated emotions regarding her sister and the rest of the family. The Simon family certainly has a troubled past. The girls were abandoned by their mother. Really, though, the book is mostly about the adult relationship between the two. And at the end of the day, I didn't find that relationship as interesting as I expected to. Basically, Rachel discovers that having intellectual disabilities didn't prevent her sister from having a full range of feelings and behaviors. A big part of this book seems to be Rachel coming to terms with the fact that it's okay if her relationship with Beth is not all sunshine and rainbows. More interesting was Rachel's effort to come to terms with the philosophy of self-determination, which guides the care of Beth and others like her. Beth is allowed to make her own decisions, even if they aren't very good ones. The ethical issues surrounding this are interesting, even if they aren't the main purpose of this book. And that ended up being the main flaw of the book for me. The issues became more interesting than the people living them.

Rachel Simon, Riding the Bus with My Sisiter: A True Life Journey (Plume, 2003) ISBN: 0452284554 

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