The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy herthis 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, "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 Bell 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.
Ruby Bell was a constant reminder of what could befall a woman whose shoe heels were too high. The people of Liberty Township wove her into cautionary tales of the wages of sin and travel. They called her buck-crazy. Howling, half-naked mad. The fact that she had come back from New York City made this somewhat understandable to the town.
She wore gray like rain clouds and wandered the red roads in bared feet. Calluses thick as boot leather. Hair caked with mud. Blackened nails as if she had scratched the slate of night. Her acres of legs carrying her, arms swaying like a loose screen. Her eyes the ink of sky, just before the storm.
That is how Ruby walked when she lived in the splintered house that Papa Bell had built before he passed. When she dug into the East Texas soil under moonlight and wailed like a distant train.
In those years, after her return, people let Ruby be. They walked a curved path to avoid her door. And so it was more than strange when ...
This is an incredibly powerful and difficult debut 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.
(Reviewed by Lucy Rock).
Full Review (601 words).
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 ...
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