Ruby by Cynthia Bond: A Book Review

9780804188241The 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 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.

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 page-turner 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.

 

My Review: I’m really not sure how to react to this novel. On the one hand, it is beautifully written and I am impressed with a debut novel that is so rich with lyrical prose. On the other hand, this is such a horrendously graphic story full of violence, rape, child molestation and much other sick, twisted behavior. There were moments I couldn’t help but be caught up in the love story of Ruby and Ephram. Ephram was definitely the only shining, bright spot in this otherwise, dark and depressing story. He was the only representation of goodness and honor in this entire novel. The characters in this novel were well developed, but almost all of them were completely unlikable. The entire town that was supposed to be filled with “God fearing” folk, were all portrayed as sinful, evil and hypocritical. It was depressing to enter this world where everyone was sick, twisted and untrustworthy.

I should point out that Ruby was a very complex and interesting character, and I loved seeing the different sides of her personality and the way that she was drawn out by Ephram. I think my biggest issue with this novel was the odd spiritual elements that were weaved throughout the entire story. Voo-doo, evil rituals, dead spirit children and evil, demonic spirits were a big part of this novel, and only served to add to it’s darkness and weirdness. This entire novel was graphic in nature, full of every evil, unspeakable practice you could fathom and just very bizarre and difficult to endure. If I was not obligated to review this book, I would have abandoned it early on. The only redeeming qualities to this entire novel were that it was well written, and the theme of redemption and love conquering evil that can be pulled from the story of Ephram and Ruby. However, with all of the negative I found in this book, these redeeming qualities do not make it a worthy read.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Blogging for Books  in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author: CYNTHIA BOND has taught writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles for more than fifteen years. She attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, then moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A PEN/Rosenthal Fellow, Bond founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011. At present, Bond teaches therapeutic writing at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center. A native of East Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.

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