Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Riding the Bus with My Sister: 23. August: Be Not Afraid Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the present, Rachel and Beth go to the Jersey Shore with Jacob, the bus driver, and his family. Rachel was surprised at Jacob’s invitation, and even though she doesn’t like the beach and hates taking days off from work, she reluctantly agreed to go. At first, she and Beth refused to wear bathing suits, but Jacob eventually convinced them. Beth plays catch with Jacob’s wife, Carol, and their daughter, Grace.
Jacob, the recovered alcoholic bus driver who taught Rachel about the importance of selflessness and generosity, lives out his values by treating Beth and Rachel like family. This trip is further evidence that Beth’s bus-riding has enabled her to build the kind of close, loving connections that Rachel secretly yearns for.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Jacob and Rachel talk. They have already been trading emails about Beth, buses, and the “Big Things” in life. Jacob tells Rachel about his struggles to act selflessly and put aside his perfectionism. When Beth comes over and says she’s worried for her eye surgery, Jacob tells her about his liver transplant.
Jacob and Rachel deepen their friendship, which shows that riding the buses is helping Rachel form connections in much the same way as it has helped Beth. Still, while Jacob and Beth open up about their fears and worries, Rachel isn’t quite ready to do the same.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Then, the whole group does family activities on the boardwalk. After lunch, Rachel doesn’t want to swim, but everyone else convinces her. She feels exposed in her bathing suit, but she steps into the cold ocean water with Beth. They play catch with Jacob, but Beth runs back to the shore. Rachel goes deeper and deeper, until she can’t handle the cold and runs back, too.
Rachel’s willingness to swim represents how riding the buses with Beth has taught her to take more risks by making her more comfortable with her own vulnerability. Yet her quick sprint back to the shore demonstrates that she hasn’t completely overcome her fears yet—she still has more to learn.
Themes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon