A Novel

Book - 2015
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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 Bell, "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 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.

Publisher: New York, Hogarth,, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780804188241
Characteristics: 368 pages ; 21 cm.


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Sep 28, 2016

A powerful story that is unfortunately diminished by the unnecessary repetition of violent imagery that eventually wears down the reader and at a certain point becomes overly-melodramatic.

Aug 31, 2016

I read this in June 2015 and while looking it up for a Staff Picks display, I saw there are new copies on order!

This is such a beautifully written novel about the tragic life of Ruby Bell. Readers of dramatic women's fiction or the Southern Gothic will likely LOVE this book.

Put it on hold!

Jun 14, 2016

This is such a beautifully written book. The prose is mesmerizing. Yes, the subject matter is harsh at times, but it is handled delicately and adroitly by the author. If you have the opportunity, I recommend the audio version.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

An extraordinary novel. The writing is wonderful. The story is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. The characters are wonderfully drawn. And yet Ruby is perhaps one of the single most disturbing novels ever written. If you're particularly sensitive to human ugliness, the brutality in this book is likely too much for you. It's not easy to stomach. The most disturbing images from Ruby still haunt me.

Mar 24, 2016

By reading the description and reviews, "Ruby" seems like a cheesy story. I wouldn't waste my time reading this book (I'd fall asleep with boredom. Forget about taking this book to work!). Go Set a Watchman (by Harper Lee) is much better; a little similar to "Ruby". I'm sure this book would cure insomnia.

Mar 23, 2016

A gifted writer with an unfortunate story. It so unbelievably depressing. I cannot recommend this book.

Feb 26, 2016

Very good book, I hated how it ended

Jan 20, 2016

Cynthia Bond is a lyrical writer with a gift for crafting beautiful language. I would love to read another book by her, but only if it nothing like Ruby. I nearly quit half way through and then, having resolved to finish it, I could not be done with it soon enough. The contrast between the beauty of her prose and the ugliness of the novel made the ugliness even worse.

It makes sense this is an Oprah book club choice. Oprah likes books about women and children who are abused and raped. This must be her favorite book ever because I have never read such an unrelentingly grim novel. This book wins the rape, incest and pedophilia olympics.

Ruby is a feral woman living in filth on her family's land. Ephraim is the sincere man who loves her, has always loved her despite her degradation. Can love conquer all? It is doubtful, since the person Ruby loves most of all is long dead. Ruby does have a great capacity for love, but her love is spent on the dead.

The story takes place in the environs of the ironically named township of Liberty, an abject African American rural community in Texas, made even more abject by oppressive power of religion, both Christian and Vodou. It also takes place during the 1960s and 70s, though it feels as though it is out of time. It never really feels like it is really the 70s, despite a reference to Roberta Flack.

Racism, of course, plays a role, but it is in the background. White people are not really part of the story, though it is likely that many of the pathologies that warp this community are rooted the powerlessness and suffering of people under the yoke of racism.

But really, this is a novel about the evil men do and in the entire story there is one decent male character. The rest are rapists or rapist enablers. It is also about the evil women allow, blaming the victims of rape and abuse. The only decent women in the story go mad or die.

So, is there anything redeeming? Cynthia Bond, in the end, suggests that love conquers some, maybe, and that we need self-respect to have any control in our lives. There is hope, fragile and unrealistic hope. Hope that I am certain will be crushed before the sun sets on the the last day of the novel.

I wonder why so many of the critically acclaimed books by black women are about abuse and rape? It is kind of like the black women who get nominated for Oscars, victims of rape, of child abuse, of domestic violence, and maids. Is there some atavistic demand that black women write about victimized women for their work to be lifted up and honored?

I cannot recommend this book. It is unrelentingly grim. It is a novel that feeds despair. There is so much attention and detail about the many, many rapes that it feels like rape pornography, particularly when rape is being described with beautiful prose.

Jan 10, 2016

I did not like this book. There was just too much brutality of the female protagonist. I just couldn't take it.

kbo90 Jun 25, 2015

the writing is fabulous, characters are gripping. Tough subject matter though, and it only gets worse as you turn the pages. not for the faint of heart.

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Mar 05, 2017

I'm not meant for using! I never was! Never was! I ain't never going to be used again!

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

Hope was a dangerous thing, something best squashed before it became contagious.


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Mar 11, 2015

a lil diff to tear int, good if u press through.

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