Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"You couldn't get off this bus if you tried." - The Arizona Republic

Is that supposed to be an endorsement?

At lunch I finished reading Riding the Bus with my Sister by Rachel Simon. I had started Inheritance of Loss this morning, but felt I needed to wrap up this one first, regardless of how annoying I found the author, her sister, or the saccharine, one-dimensional characters of the bus drivers.

Ok, straight up? I HATED this book. I hated Rachel Simon for being such a pushover, and I hated how sanctimonious she is about people who innocently ask her about her sister; no matter what they say or ask, she finds fault.
I hated her sister Beth for abusing the system and her caregivers, and acting like her disability is an adequate excuse for annoying, obnoxious, and rude behavior.
I hated her mother for insisting her daughter not be institutionalized, and then running away and leaving the rest of the family holding the ball.

I was relieved to read this Barnes & Noble review, if only to prove I am not the only heartless reader: ...this book turned out to be a huge disappointment...I found it excruciatingly difficult to get through, and I had to force myself to finish it. The story line is bland and uninspiring. Furthermore, I don't know what city this is where bus drivers are would-be philosophers who dole out sappy proverbs on a daily basis and say things like 'The only thing that's going to satisfy me is to do good in this life.'

I hated the drivers for being such namby-pamby smarmy do-gooder caricatures, or maybe just the author for portraying them that way, and then I hated everyone involved for demonizing the drivers who didn’t care to endure Beth, her disruptiveness, and her constant need for attention.

The only part I found in the least compelling were the bits Simon writes about her childhood, but even those eventually veer off into stereotypically dysfunctional-family territory; bizarre actions by family members are unexplained (her loving, stable mother throws the children out of the house and runs off with an ex-con she’d met a week before), and conclusions are drawn with no evidence to support them (when one previously friendly driver begins ignoring her sister, Simon states melodramatically that “Rodolfo abandoned Beth.”) (Truth is, if I were one of these bus drivers, I’d have lost my patience a long time ago. Beth spends HOURS riding a bus with her newfound friends – HOURS. There you are, trapped driving your bus, with someone chattering away at you as you try to do your job. For those hours, she takes up a prime seat and expects to be defended to other (also handicapped or elderly) passengers, she acts belligerently to these other passengers, and pouts if you stop paying attention to her and focus on your job.)

I suggest we just ignore the clunky, didactic writing, and the whinging self-pity oozing from Simon’s every pore.

I am happily returning tonight to the cool and evocative writing of Kiran Desai, and not a moment too soon.

Ugh.

16 comments:

Gina said...

I honestly cannot think of one supposedly inspiring book that I've read with any degree of enjoyment, let alone admiration or inspiration.

Oh, aside from Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr, Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. That book made me want to give the man a hug, write a check, and be a better person all at the same time.

Sarah Louise said...

Which just goes to show it takes all kinds of readers--I loved the bus book and loved hearing Rachel Simon speak at a recent library conference. I'll buy your copy off you...

Badger said...

You would hate the movie even more. Rosie O'Donnell plays Beth. Yeah. It's exactly like that.

Surfing Free said...

Sounds like one I'll definitely be avoiding!

BabelBabe said...

SL - it's all yours, no currency need change hands!

Gina - It was as bad as Glass Castle : )

BabelBabe said...

oh my god - rosie as beth and the annoying, plastic andie mcdowell as rachel. UGH.

delta said...

I was just going to say, bb, the made for television movie had Andie MacDowell as Simon (and she played a REAL bitch!) and Rosie O'Donnell as Beth (and she was TRULY annoying! she was actually probably a good person to play the role...). The whole movie just made me want to vahmit.

It's still fricking freezing! Burst water pipes with water leaking into the laundry room. My kids home from school for yet another day. Me in the laundry room schmoozing with the plumbers, while my poor 80 year old mother has a nervous breakdown in the other room. Maybe I'll go rent "Roots" tonight and drink heavily....

PS - I am reading "American Bloomsbury" by Susan Cheever and am LOVING it! Totally fascinating stuff. I am learning all sorts of interesting tidbits about Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Louisa May Alcott.

Liz said...

Yeah. I didn't read the book, but tolerated about 10 minutes of the movie before the sugary stench drove me away.

Lazy cow said...

If it was ANYTHING like the Glass Castle, I'll run the other way. I thought I'd read this, but on reading your review, realised I was mistaken (must be another book with Bus in the title!)

Joke said...

It's books like this that made me look at fiction with a gimlet eye. And if a book is allegedly inspirational, I sprint away so fast I may leave skidmarks on the pavement.

Hell, I'd rather read chick-lit.

-J.

Dawn said...

OMG I am so happy that you hated that book. When I saw that you had bought it I thought shit, she paid $5 bucks for that, I wonder if she can return it...I hated it too. Did you see the movie with Rosie O'Donnel? It made me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty switchblade...hope you enjoy your next read.

ssheers said...

I'm rereading Harry Potter #5 and enjoying it.

Did I ever tell you how much I like seeing scoop every time I visit your blog? We've got a very old betta fish that keeps looking like he might be dead but he's not. Scoop is much cuter.

Gina said...

You know, your title up there reminds me of Bender from The Breakfast Club: "Sweets, you couldn't ignore me if you tried." :-)

anatidaeling said...

"I don't know what city this is where bus drivers are would-be philosophers who dole out sappy proverbs on a daily basis and say things like 'The only thing that's going to satisfy me is to do good in this life.'"

Yeah, that surprised me, too, because where I come from, that's not busdrivers, it's LIBRARIANS. That's how it is when I'm on the desk, anyhow. Usually someone will come in and say, "Where's the water fountain?" I'll point to it, and they'll say thanks. Then I'll reply, "'The only thing that's going to satisfy me is to do good in this life." It's pretty much why I went into this line of work.

tut-tut said...

I'm reading The Emeror's Children, which I'm very much enjoying. As for a book I didn't think I'd like at all, but couldn't put down: My Life as a Fake, Peter Carey.

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

why is it that bad reviews are so much more fun to read than good ones?

thx.