The author of Riding the Bus With My Sister is a Philadelphia-based writer in her forties who agrees to spend a year repeatedly visiting her sister Beth and following her around her city on the… read analysis of Rachel Simon
The central character in Riding the Bus With My Sister, Rachel Simon’s sister Beth lives with a mild intellectual disability, resides alone in a subsidized apartment in a mid-sized Pennsylvania city, and spends… read analysis of Beth
Rachel and Beth’s Mother
Rachel, Beth, Laura, and Max’s mother is a librarian with a tumultuous past and difficult relationships with her children. When the children are little, she constantly plays games with them and… read analysis of Rachel and Beth’s Mother
Rachel and Beth’s Father
Rachel, Beth, Laura, and Max’s father is a professor who runs a mail correspondence school during most of their childhood. After his marriage to his children’s mother falls apart and ends… read analysis of Rachel and Beth’s Father
Jesse is Beth’s boyfriend. Like her, he has a developmental disability, and they first met when they were both living in group homes. He is unusually shy, and he is blind in one eye… read analysis of Jesse
Selfless, sincere Jacob is arguably the bus driver who most influences Rachel during her year of visits to Beth. He preaches the importance of trust, empathy, and gratitude. His saintly personality is rooted in… read analysis of Jacob
Rick is the attractive, sophisticated bus driver whom Beth repeatedly tries to set up on a date with Rachel. Eventually, she succeeds: Rick and Rachel go on a series of dates, and while Rachel… read analysis of Rick
Bailey—or “Crazy Bailey,” as Beth calls him—is a fun-loving 40-something father and bus driver. He’s chronically sleep-deprived because he constantly has to deal with his teenage children’s antics, but he also tells Rachel about the… read analysis of Bailey
Bert is a cheerful, eccentric bus driver from New York. After retiring to Pennsylvania, he got bored and decided to start driving a few hours a week to help fill his time. During free time… read analysis of Bert
Claude is a cheery 40-something bus driver, the very first driver Rachel meets at the beginning of her journey, and the subject of her initial Philadelphia Inquirer article. Beth buys him coffee before riding his… read analysis of Claude
Cliff is an attractive bus driver who starts working during the year Rachel spends visiting Beth. Because he’s so “fine-looking” and spends his weekends racing his Mustang, he quickly replaces Rodolpho as… read analysis of Cliff
Estella is a driver whom one passenger calls the city’s “great sounding board” because she can listen to anyone’s problems and give them wise, level-headed advice. She tells Rachel that this ability stems from her… read analysis of Estella
Jack is a tough, independent bus driver whom Rachel profiles. After Beth tells off a white mother and daughter for making racist comments about an interracial couple, Jack compliments her courage and explains that he… read analysis of Jack
Melanie is an enthusiastic, fun-loving 37-year-old driver who takes Beth and Rachel on a rural route through farming towns one night in November. Even though she’s married, she chats with Beth about men, and they… read analysis of Melanie
Quiet, “exotically handsome” Rodolpho is Beth’s favorite driver—until Cliff comes to town. She has a serious crush on him and often spends hours talking to him. Even though he doesn’t say much in return… read analysis of Rodolpho
Tim, whom Beth calls “Happy Timmy” and everyone else calls “Professor,” is the first bus driver that Rachel profiles in depth. He’s mild-mannered, extremely upbeat, and knowledgeable about a wide range of topics because of… read analysis of Tim
Sam is the boyfriend who Rachel broke up with four years before the events of the book. This breakup left her with very little money and virtually no social life, and she coped with these… read analysis of Sam
Vera is one of Beth’s aides—she works for the agency that runs Beth’s support programs, and she takes various different positions over the years. During the year when Rachel visits Beth, Vera’s job is… read analysis of Vera
Olivia is Beth’s case manager and the leader of her annual care meetings. She works for the government and checks in once a month to ask if Beth is satisfied with the services that… read analysis of Olivia
Max is Rachel, Beth, and Laura’s younger brother. In adulthood, until Rachel starts riding the buses with Beth, he is the closest sibling to Beth because he and his family visit her every month.
Laura is Rachel, Beth, and Max’s older sister. In adulthood, she moves away to Colorado and only occasionally visits the rest of the family.
Ringo is Rachel, Beth, Laura, and Max’s family dog throughout most of their childhood.