Selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0
The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her - this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
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, “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, 30-year-old Ruby Bell 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.
Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous pause-resister rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.
"Reading Cynthia Bond’s Ruby, you can’t help but feel that one day this book will be considered a staple of our literature, a classic. Lush, deep, momentous, much like the people and landscape it describes, Ruby enchants not just with its powerful tale of lifelong quests and unrelenting love, but also with its exquisite language. It is a treasure of a book, one you won’t soon forget." (Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light)
"A stunning debut. Ruby is unforgettable." (John Rechy, author of City of Night)
"Pure magic. Every line gleams with vigor and sound and beauty. Ruby somehow manages to contain the darkness of racial conflict and cruelty, the persistence of memory, the physical darkness of the piney woods and strange elemental forces, and weld it together with bright seams of love, loyalty, friendship, laced with the petty comedies of small-town lives. Slow tragedies, sudden light. This stunning debut delivers and delivers and delivers." (Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander)
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Read It and Weep. A Future Classic.
Heartbreaking, Shocking, Disturbing.
Ruby reminded me in some ways of Toni Morrison's classic tale of slavery, 'Beloved.' Whilst the main protagonist, Ruby, was not a slave in the normal sense she did inhabit a world where some unfortunate children become slaves to the modern horror of child prostitution and a world where adults who are meant to care for them actually buy and sell them with impunity.
I don't normally enjoy stories which are narrated by their author. However, Cynthia Bond's languid, emotional style of delivery and her southern accent helped to convey the undercurrents and anomalies that existed in the society of Texas' Liberty township. Her lack of acting experience/skills made the variety of voices noticeably limited; but overall she did a really good job.
Yes. I so wish I could have listened to this in one sitting. I listened to it in huge chunks and this helped the mounting horror of Ruby's story to really have an impact on me. By the end I was close to tears and truly shocked.
This book deserves all of the praise that has been heaped on it in my opinion. It also deserves its place on the 2016 shortlist of the Baileys Prize for Fiction (in UK.) It is a love story but in a very complex plot that involves religious hypocrisy, good and evil, sibling relationships, the power of communities to isolate oddballs, sexual politics, child rape & prostitution, lynchings, supernatural beliefs, family loyalty, the need to be different and breaking free of the ties that bind.
You will be shocked and horrified by the cruelty and inhumane treatment handed out to Ruby and her relatives. You will weep for Ephram, her friend and lover. You will rage at the actions of Celia and her father. You will be horrified by the attitudes of the town's population towards Ruby and aghast at the actions of so-called religious people. The two-fold denouement of Ruby's history and the reasons for Ephram's mother's mental health meltdown are truly shocking and will live with me for years to come.
This will probably enter my 'top twenty modern books.'
A tough but worthwhile read.
- Cliodhna O'Shaughnessy