BookBrowse Reviews Ruby by Cynthia Bond

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

Ruby

A Novel

by Cynthia Bond

Ruby by Cynthia Bond
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucy Rock

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Laced with a powerful sense of place and elements of hoodoo, this gut-wrenching yet captivating debut novel expertly explores difficult issues.

Liberty Township, an all-black community sitting on the East Texan plains is, at first glance, a rather ordinary place. It's full of assorted characters – from the red-blooded country boys who loiter outside the local liquor store and brothel; to the upstanding pillars of the community who find more solace in the word of God than at the bottom of a bottle. Each person knows his place in this community well and feels the need to keep up appearances. Everyone apart from Ruby Bell that is.

The daughter of an old, shamed Liberty family, Ruby has become a laughing stock. Shunned by the residents of the neighbourhood in which she has lived all her life, she staggers the streets in a daze, communicating with the ghosts who inhabit the graveyard outside her home. She leaves herself to be exploited and hated by her evangelical neighbors. Ruby is a lost cause – on the edge of an abyss.

The residents of Liberty believe that the Bell family is cursed. For instance, Ruby's mother is the target of some nasty incidents and abandons her daughter for life in the city. Ruby's aunt has also been through extremely trying circumstances. Abused from a young age, the adult Ruby treats her body as something apart from herself, to be used and discarded by the evil men who surround her.

If all this seems fairly grim, we find a break in the form of Ephram Jennings, a man who has been infatuated with Ruby Bell for as long as he can remember. Ephram is a simple soul who gives Ruby the hope and affection she needs. It is through Ephram's love and unwavering care that this jewel will, with any luck, finally regain her sparkle.

Debut novelist Cynthia Bond has been a teacher for over fifteen years and works with vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, persuading them to take up their own pens. Luckily for us, she has taken time out from this admirable task to write a masterful novel. A native of East Texas herself, Ruby's tale is woven with the heat, racial prejudice and folklore of this part of the world; the novel recreates a terrifying fictional community where the life and innocence of children are nought and where death and perversion reign supreme.

This is an incredibly powerful and difficult novel, unlocking mechanisms that enable us to face real evil. How should we feel about books that force us to face distressing subject matters? Aren't we reading for fun and escapism? Being made to confront some of the most repugnant crimes in existence may feel brutal, but Bond handles her subject matter – particularly that of sexual abuse – with an admirable level of frankness and feeling.

Sadness and frustration become a natural part of this rollercoaster ride that will inevitably bear comparison to the monolithic figure of Toni Morrison, who is well known for confronting disturbing topics head-on, particularly in the context of the post-slavery African-American experience. Under Bond's deft pen, Ruby becomes symbolic of the years of abuse and neglect suffered by both her race and gender. Mixed in with elements of hoodoo (see 'Beyond the Book'), Bond has created a terrifying dreamscape.

Those looking to read a feel-good novel might want to skip this one. However, reading through the discomfort is well worth it. This is a brave, poetic and provocative piece of work that will stay with you long after you close its pages. An inspired novel where hope and redemption are, to our relief, still present. Rather upsetting at times for this intrepid reader, but captivating all the same.

Reviewed by Lucy Rock

This review was originally published in May 2014, and has been updated for the February 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Hoodoo

Support BookBrowse

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

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Leavers
    The Leavers
    by Lisa Ko

    The day before Deming Guo saw his mother for the last time, she surprised him at school. A navy ...

  • Book Jacket: Wonderful Feels Like This
    Wonderful Feels Like This
    by Sara Lovestam
    High school is hard; or perhaps, more accurately, growing up and finding oneself is hard. This is ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Light Yokohama
    Blue Light Yokohama
    by Nicolas Obregon
    Blue Light Yokohama, Nicolás Obregón's crime fiction debut, takes place in an exotic ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Book of Summer
    by Michelle Gable

    The bestselling author of The Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable now transports readers to Nantucket.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery

A string of murders takes Ruth underground in the newest book in the series.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T W Don't M A R

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 books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -