Book review: Ruby

Ruby appeared on my Kindle not long ago because sometimes Amazon emails me with book deals and sales and offers and I have precisely zero self-control. I’m still trying to read books at a faster rate than I acquire them, and this is still a pretty major challenge. Since I’d bought it, I thought I’d better read it.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby is an amazing, heartbreaking book. It’s perfectly structured and I found myself falling through it in spite of some very difficult topics. At times it was hard to read but I never once wanted to put it down. On top of all this, it even manages a bitter sweet ending. That said, by the time I was done I was emotionally exhausted, so I hope I’ll be forgiven if I don’t immediately run out to buy everything else by Cynthia Bond. I need a rest after this book.

The titular character is the centre of the book but her story is revealed slowly. No person exists in a vacuum and the stories of the other characters are unravelled one at a time as the novel progresses. At one point a character remarks that going crazy is normal for African Americans in 1950s Texas, excusing Ruby’s present state of madness. It’s not enough to excuse it though, we need to know how and why it happens, and Bond tells us.

The novel is reminiscent of Beloved with the references to the supernatural and women driven to madness through years of abuse. At the start I was tempted to call it Beloved-lite, but as I continued reading it became clear that this was unfair. While there are some shared themes, Ruby stands alone and it’s well worth reading both novels.

It’s hard to say much more without introducing spoilers. I particularly enjoyed the stories of Ephram Jennings and his mother, and I liked Ruby’s friend Maggie whenever she showed up. I felt like this was a hopeful novel and, as difficult as the topics sometimes were, one that left me feeling satisfied. I’ll look forward to reading the next book, just as soon as I’ve had a little break.

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