I first encountered Rachel Simon in her powerful novel The Story of Beautiful Girl. As great as that story is, real life can be even better. In Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True-Life Journey, Rachel introduces her sister, Beth. Beth is Rachel's younger sister, by less than a year. She lives alone in an apartment in a nearby city. She doesn't have a job, but spends all day riding the city buses around town. And she is intellectually disabled.
Rachel spends a year going to Beth's town to ride the bus with her. She discovers the community Beth has found--and built--among the bus drivers and other bus riders. Through flash-backs to their childhood, interactions with others, and their love/bickering (in other words, sisterly, relationship), Rachel learns much about her sister and herself.
While Riding the Bus with My Sister is a personal memoir, dwelling on these sisters' relationship, it ends up being much more. It's not a handbook for dealing with adults with disabilities, but it covers much that such a handbook would cover. Dealing with finances, making provision for communication and emergencies, maintaining health and grooming, teaching about relationships and, well, reproductive choices, all factor in to Rachel and Beth's story. I appreciated Beth's take on her jobs at sheltered workshops. Putting bolts in a baggie? She didn't want any of that! Parents and siblings of individuals with disabilities would do well to start with Riding the Bus if they have questions about what the future may hold.
Don't get me wrong, their story is very entertaining and, at times moving. But once the glow of the story is over, the lasting questions linger--what will I do when my little girl is a grown up? Will she want to live independently? Have a job? Ride the bus? I hope I have the grace and wisdom to release and support my daughter the way Beth's family has.