Bailey’s Shortlist 2016 Review: Ruby Cynthia Bond
Next up on my list of Bailey’s Prize shortlist is Ruby by Cynthia Bond. Here’s my review:
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Published in: 2015
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: Ruby
Synopsis from Goodreads: Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city–the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village–all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: First of the warnings: This book contains child abuse, rape and violence towards women. It was a difficult book to read because from the outset there is violence, rape, racist attacks, and the dehumanizing of black people who are just trying to live their own lives.
Liberty, East Texas is not a safe place to be a girl. If you are pretty you get the wrong kind of attention with soul destroying consequences and if you are good and dutiful you end up as a wife to a man who doesn’t respect you and takes his frustration out on you with his fists. This is one of the short comings of the book — the fact that almost all the men are abusers and support each other in shared abuse. I can actually only think of two men who broke this pattern and one of these was Ephram the romantic lead.
I liked the way the narrative moved backwards and forwards in time with switching viewpoints. As you are reading, events you thought you had understood are shown in a totally new light and everything you thought you knew is thrown into question. In addition to the fluid narrative, I also liked seeing the end result before the going back in time to find out how the characters arrived at that point in time. I did feel that some of the sections featuring spirits, both good and evil, were over done and could have been toned down. However these sections did add to the sinister atmosphere and highlighted Ruby’s isolation.
“That fish be swimming up there now. He ain’t got to stay stuck in some ole lake the size of a dime. See? That’s how it be. He come to us. He wants us to make a nice fire and eat him so all his memories of the lake be inside us.”
“Some folk say after time she come to love him. Others say she jes’ give in to shame. Me I don’t know much, ‘cept that he chased her all the way to lonely. And once you make it there, ain’t too many choices left”
“The womb or the earth. Only two places children be safe.”
“She had been too young to know that a person can still hold onto the shared secret of love and walk away”
“Under the blackberry sky, the impartial moon shone on night phlox, evening primrose and lone houses with slanted steps. It also cast upon wolf cubs caught in traps, hidden bones long buried and burning crosses-with the same indifferent grace”
“But she waited because, maybe, maybe one day she could tell God. He wasn’t listening now…But later when the blue smoke was gone. When he could see into the fire. See what they were doing. She would tell the father so he could set it straight.”
Who would like this book? If you have managed to read A Little Life you will be able to read this, as the abuse is much less graphic. However, this book will be hard to read if have a hard time tolerating abuse and violence in books and this abuse is the reason why many people have complained about this book. If you like good writing, this is an almost poetical book and worth reading just for the language and the use of the natural world. Finally, if you like a fight between good and evil for a person’s soul this book is for you.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Ruby
We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?