Reviews of Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Probably Ruby

A Novel

by Lisa Bird-Wilson

Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson X
Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2022, 288 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 3, 2023, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

An Indigenous woman adopted by white parents goes in search of her identity in this unforgettable debut novel about family, race, and history.

This is the story of a woman in search of herself, in every sense. When we first meet Ruby, a Métis woman in her thirties, her life is spinning out of control. She's angling to sleep with her counselor while also rekindling an old relationship she knows will only bring more heartache. But as we soon learn, Ruby's story is far more complex than even she can imagine.

Given up for adoption as an infant, Ruby is raised by a white couple who understand little of her Indigenous heritage. This is the great mystery that hovers over Ruby's life—who her people are and how to reconcile what is missing. As the novel spans time and multiple points of view, we meet the people connected to Ruby: her birth parents and grandparents; her adoptive parents; the men and women Ruby has been romantically involved with; a beloved uncle; and Ruby's children. Taken together, these characters form a kaleidoscope of stories, giving Ruby's life dignity and meaning.

Probably Ruby is a dazzling novel about a bold, unapologetic woman taking control of her life and story, and marks the debut of a major new voice in Indigenous fiction.

This excerpt contains sexually graphic content

Kal
2013

"I like to be in charge," said Ruby. "I pretend I like watching him jerk off, just so I won't have to touch him. My commitment level's kind of low on this one."

Kal's face showed no emotion. Instead he looked at the sunglasses resting on top of Ruby's head. Kal's office was in the interior of a downtown building and had no windows. Outside, it had been raining for days. He asked, "Is it sunny out there now, Ruby?"

His question made her laugh. She had a royal, attention-getting laugh, big enough to be heard out in Kal's waiting room. Which was good. Ruby wanted anyone out there to know Kal and she were having a great time. Try and top that, sucker. That's what she hoped her laugh said to any waiting client she'd subconsciously pegged as a rival for Kal's affections. And by "anyone" she mostly meant the shiny, obvious "Lori," seen on one occasion leaving his office and stopping to make an appointment on her way ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The events of Ruby Valentine's life don't unfold chronologically in Probably Ruby. Why do you think Lisa Bird-Wilson made this choice? How did it influence your reading experience?
  2. Discuss Ruby's relationship with her adoptive parents, Alice and Mel. Does this change over time? Who owes who an apology? Who owes who forgiveness?
  3. Ruby is drawn to people who are also part Métis, like her counselor Kal and former partner Moe. Why do you think that is?
  4. Bird-Wilson writes that Ruby "spent her life being told she was chosen but constantly needing people to prove it." How do you see this playing out throughout the novel? Which characters "proved" this to Ruby in the end?
  5. How does her boyfriend Bart's death continue to affect ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Bird-Wilson's background as a poet is apparent in her rich, evocative language. Rose longs to return to the home of her birth, "Where the sound of shaken leaves on dry branches ripped across the acres like soft gossip." Chapters that feature the perspectives of Ruby's biological mother, father and other relatives heighten the book's complexity, showing the reader where Ruby has come from in ways she cannot access herself. Probably Ruby is a deft work of characterization. Though some might find the novel's disordered structure a challenge, it is effective in exhibiting Ruby as the sum of her parts — a person affected by intergenerational trauma and a history she cannot fully know...continued

Full Review Members Only (608 words).

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Kirkus
A bighearted portrait of an Indigenous woman whose transracial adoption spurs a lifelong quest to discover—or perhaps create—her identity...Probably Ruby is fully realized by the end. But readers may forgive clunky prose and spans of exposition for the chance to spend time with this complicated character with a big laugh and a guarded but vulnerable heart. An unsparing exploration of the injustices wrought by misogyny and settler colonialism.

Publishers Weekly
[M]oving if somewhat disjointed...Each chapter is vivid and contains a satisfying resolution, though the whole occasionally frustrates, as it seems designed for an overarching narrative but doesn't quite cohere. Still, the fragmented nature lends a sense of verisimilitude to this painful story of a fractured family history, and readers will be carried along by Ruby's vitality and perseverance. This is well worth a look.

Toronto Star (Canada)
[Bird-Wilson's] writing is never didactic, always engrossing, and the protagonist is a complex, unforgettable character who will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.

Author Blurb Christy Lefteri, bestselling author of Songbirds and The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Told from different viewpoints, this multifaceted narrative sparkles with life as we piece together Ruby's story, starting before she is even born. It is utterly heartbreaking that we see parts of Ruby's life that she herself cannot perceive, a compelling chord that stays with us throughout the novel. This is a beautiful, unusual, and insightful story about the lost pieces of one woman's life and Indigenous identity.

Author Blurb Imbolo Mbue, bestselling and award-winning author of How Beautiful We Were and Behold the Dreamers
"Writing from the depths of her heart, Lisa Bird-Wilson has gifted us a passionate exploration of identity and belonging and a celebration of our universal desire to love and be loved." -

Author Blurb Kelli Jo Ford, author of Crooked Hallelujah
Probably Ruby reminds us that our stories are acts of survival. That it's not 'so much the question of what [we've] inherited, but what [we] do with it.' That grief, too, can be a gift. Written in prose to be savored, Bird-Wilson's novel and its heroine will stay with me for a long time." -

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Beyond the Book

The Murder of Leo LaChance

In Lisa Bird-Wilson's novel Probably Ruby, a chapter set in Ruby's teenage years features references to the real-life 1991 murder of a 43-year-old Cree man, Leo LaChance, by a self-proclaimed white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan named Carney Milton Nerland. LaChance was killed in a Prince Albert, Saskatchewan pawn/gun shop on the evening of January 28th. He was attempting to sell some fur pelts, and after discovering that the shop of the fur trader he usually did business with was closed, he went next door to the pawn shop, which was owned by Nerland. It's not clear what exactly transpired in the pawn shop, but investigators believe Nerland fired a gun into the floor two times and then shot Leo LaChance as he was leaving. A ...

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