Reading guide for The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

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The Book of Ruth

by Jane Hamilton

The Book of Ruth
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1988, 328 pages
    Dec 1989, 336 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Ruth's story is particularly poignant because of the way she conveys so much that is beyond her understanding. What are the differences between what Ruth tells us and what we infer about her life and the people in it? How does Hamilton achieve this?
  2. How do you respond to Ruth's naiveté? Is her lack of understanding about the people in her life frustrating? Or does her innocence make her a more sympathetic character?
  3. May is in many ways a monstrous character in Ruth's life. What about her is human and invokes our sympathy? Are there any similarities between May and Ruth?
  4. How does Ruth get caught between May and Ruby? Does Justy's birth improve the situation for her at all?
  5. Daisy seems comfortable in the world of the novel, even while she remains distinct and apart from everyone in that world. How is her friendship important to Ruth? Is she as well-drawn as the other characters in the book?
  6. The Book of Ruth's climax is hinted at throughout the novel. What effect does this type of foreshadowing have on your reading? Does it add to or diminish the impact of the events when they finally occur?
  7. Is Ruth's attitude toward Ruby justified at the end of the book?
  8. Compare the characters of Aunt Sid in The Book of Ruth and Aunt Kate in A Map of the World. Do they serve the same function for Ruth and Alice?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Anchor Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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