It’s late afternoon as I write this post. I’ve got a cup of tea and a slice of freshly baked Banana Bread, and I’m thinking about what I will read this coming week, as it is March Break and I will have plenty of extra reading time.
I just finished a book this morning that my Friends book group will be discussing tomorrow night, Ruby by Cynthia Bond. This novel, set in the small town of Liberty, Texas in the 1960s, tells the story of Ruby Bell, a woman who grew up in Liberty, only to escape to New York in search of her mother when she was in her teens. She has returned to the town after many years, and the townspeople and church members waste no time trying to break her spirit once again, just as they had before she escaped when she was young, motherless and completely vulnerable. The reader is left to decide if she is mad, or just hypersensitive to the guilt and grief of the spirits and “haints” surrounding her in the forest around the Bell property. When Ephram Jennings, the man who has carried a torch for Ruby since childhood, arrives and tries to reach out to her, Ruby pushes him away, only to be met with insistence, gentleness and love. But Ephram’s pious sister, Celia, has other plans for her rogue brother, and we are offered their stories and their struggles, and Ephram must decide between loyalty towards his sister, who raised him like a son, and love for Ruby, who may never be able to accept or return it. Thrown into this mix are scenes of superstition and voodoo, and horrifying details that surrounded Ruby and others like her growing up in this small town where even white girls are offered up as pawns, all for the purpose of making money. This book was recommended by one of the book club members, but she warned us that there were descriptive scenes of rape and violence. I, too, would advise any reader that there are disturbing sections of this book, and not just one or two, but many, many lengthy scenes, which seemed excessive to me, but this book was an Oprah choice and got rave reviews. I didn’t love it, and struggled to get through it, but thankfully, all was explained near the end. The author used a dreamlike style for much of the book, which was both vague and often confusing - I think chapter headings with dates and locations would have been helpful. This style was also used in another book I read fairly recently, Birdie by Tracy Lindberg. Both books dealt with the sexual abuse of young girls, mental illness, and superstition, spiritual awakening or magic realism. Both are debut novels and, while I preferred Lindberg’s book, clearly from the reviews others felt that Bond’s novel was also well-written and praiseworthy. I’m curious to hear what the others in my group thought of this book.
That’s all for now - I’m not used to writing so late, and it’s strange to be ending this post because I have to make something for dinner. I promise that for the next post, things will be back to normal. Happy March Break!
Bye for now…