Every once in a while you come across a book that you know will be talked about, that will be recommended, that will become one of the “you must read” books. I don’t mean the popular nonsense like Twilight or Shades of Gray, but rather books that get people talking and change perceptions. I think Ruby by Cynthia Bond should be one of those books.
I read it for my book club and at first I was sad to see it was also selected as an Oprah book club selection, but a fellow book clubber reminded me not to hold it against the author and the book. And in her keeping-it-real-directness asked “wouldn’t you want your book picked by Oprah?” Oh well, when you put it that way!
Ruby is set in the small town of Liberty, Texas with its piney woods and picturesque Marion Lake. Ruby, the title character, is introduced to us as the crazy lady who lives on her family land after returning 11 years earlier from a period in New York City. Ephram Jennings is the man who has loved her since they were children. Their story is about acceptance and vulnerability and not submitting to others definitions of who we have to be.
Ruby’s craziness has deep roots in sexual and physical abuse and Bond explores those roots in detail. Some people may turn away from those details or dismiss the book because of them. But abuse is real and since the abused cannot turn away from them, we shouldn’t either. Bond also weaves in themes of evangelical Christianity and Southern voodoo, making the story richer and bringing in characters I won’t soon forget such as Ephram’s sister, Celia and their father, the Reverend Jennings. The novel is rounded out by its setting in Liberty and the people, both kind and cruel, who inhabit it.
On Goodreads, I gave Ruby 5 stars, because it had all of what I look for in a good novel – a compelling plot, interesting characters, wonderful language. People have compared Bond to Toni Morrison and I think that is an apt comparison.