MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Ruby

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Ruby

A Novel

by Cynthia Bond

Ruby by Cynthia Bond X
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2014, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2015, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucy Rock
Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Ruby

Print Review

To the untrained eye, the strain of magic involving animal spirits and the use of charms and powders in Cynthia Bond's novel might seem to be a branch of voodoo - a belief system that finds its origins in the Western African religion of Vodun. It is crucial to note that Ruby is, in fact, along with others in the community, a practitioner of the oft-confused hoodoo.

Also known as 'conjure' or 'rootwork', hoodoo is a term used for a certain kind of African-American folkloric practice and belief. Having made their way across the Atlantic with the slave trade, the elements of hoodoo frequently merge with European and Native American folkloric traditions and often incorporate Biblical psalms. The principal difference between the two is that voodoo is part of a religion while hoodoo is not; they do borrow from each other so it's hard to treat them as entirely distinct entities.

Hoodoo practitioners harness the power of natural herbs, and use animal sacrifice, bodily fluids and special elements such as lodestones to conjure their spells. Talismans (or gris-gris) are used to bring luck and protection; activities such as divination, card reading, astrology and dream interpretation are also a part of hoodoo.

Moab Hoodoo Not a religion and not allowing omnipotence to any God in particular (practitioners often practice hoodoo while observing their own particular religious beliefs), hoodoo is rich with spirits, one such being the "dark man" or devil who bares a striking resemblance to Ruby's own 'dyboù'.

As an interesting aside, the word hoodoo might have Gaelic origin from the phonetic transliteration of the Gaelic word for "dark spirit." African American sailors crossed paths with their Irish counterparts in the Atlantic shipping trade and the term might have crossed over then. In fact, the eerie rock formations found in the desert Southwest in national parks such as Bryce in Utah, are known as hoodoo because Irish traders viewed them as personified demons. The term is now used for similar rock formations across the world.

Aunt Caroline Dye There are many figures in American history who made a name for themselves within hoodoo culture, the most well-known of these perhaps being Aunt Caroline Dye, who practiced her particular form of clairvoyance and divination on clientele far and wide, earning a strong reputation. Born into slavery (and eventually freed), Aunt Caroline was aware of her abilities as a seer from a very young age, and had individuals travel and write to her from far and wide for advice and influence in all matters - from affairs of business to the heart.

Today, hoodoo is practised across the United States, and not only by the African American community.

Picture of hoodoo formation from Wikipedia
Picture of Aunt Caroline Dye from Luckymojo.com

Filed under

Article by Lucy Rock

This "beyond the book article" relates to Ruby. It originally ran in May 2014 and has been updated for the February 2015 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for a year or $39 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Lightness of Hands
    The Lightness of Hands
    by Jeff Garvin
    The stillness that comes right after reading a book that has wrapped itself firmly around your heart...
  • Book Jacket: The Vanishing Half
    The Vanishing Half
    by Brit Bennett
    Brit Bennett's second novel, The Vanishing Half (after The Mothers, her 2016 bestselling debut), ...
  • Book Jacket
    Tropic of Violence
    by Nathacha Appanah
    Marie is a nurse working in Mayotte, a cluster of French territory islands in the Indian Ocean. When...
  • Book Jacket: Death in Mud Lick
    Death in Mud Lick
    by Eric Eyre
    When Eric Eyre, investigative and statehouse reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Daily, began ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Prisoner's Wife
    by Maggie Brookes

    Inspired by the true story of a courageous young woman who enters a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Last Flight
by Julie Clark

The story of two women and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The House on Fripp Island

The House on Fripp Island
by Rebecca Kauffman

A taut, page-turning novel of secrets and strife.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

M's T W!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.