My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ephram Jennings is a forty-something year old man who lives in Liberty, Texas with his older sister, Celia. Celia has raised Ephram, since he was eight, after their mother was admitted to the local mental hospital. They live a quiet life together, with Celia devoting most of her time to taking care of mild-mannered Ephram, until he decides to rescue a fallen woman by the name of Ruby Bell.
Ephram had been in love with Ruby since childhood. It didn’t matter to him that Ruby’s reputation, since returning to Liberty from New York City, had been tainted by her sordid past. In his simple way, Ephram set out to show Ruby what it’s like to be finally loved by another human being. Much to the disapproval of his overbearing sister, Ephram left their house one hot Texas day, with Celia’s famous Angel Cake in hand, to win over long-suffering Ruby. What follows is a tale that contains a wide array of literary elements – evil, betrayal, misunderstanding, secrets, lies, abuse, religion, voodoo and love.
Oh, what to say about this book. I was immediately taken in by the sheer beauty of Cynthia Bond’s story of Ruby – a woman who is barely alive after experiencing one horrific event after another. Ms. Bond weaves a tale of violence, racism, hatred and love with words that flow like poetry. I can honestly say it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything quite like this. Any book that is both beautiful and tragic at the same time is a sure sign of a talented author.
However, and this is a big however, the amount of sadistic brutality, violence and cruelty contained in Ruby was often too much to bear and made the book difficult to read at times. Although I kept in mind that Ruby is a work of fiction, it was still quite difficult to imagine such overly excessive cruelty occurring in one remote location, to so many people, at any time in history. The pervasive sickening behavior exhibited by so many of the adult characters and perpetrated on innocent children in one tiny Texas town was a bit over the top If some of Ms. Bond’s goals when writing Ruby was to shock, enrage, and at times, depress readers, she’s certainly done her job well. Additionally, I wondered why it seemed as though the author made a conscious decision to depict many of the “religious” church-going characters as either hypocritical simpletons or downright evil beings.
I thought the story went on a little bit longer than it should have. I felt things could have been wrapped up a bit sooner. And after all that Ephram and Ruby had gone through it would have been nice to have had a more solid ending. Yet, even despite all of those things, and although the book’s subject matter is decidedly dark and violent in nature, I would still recommend Ruby and give it five stars. Ruby is an excellent debut novel and Cynthia Bond is definitely an author to watch.
http://ebookreviewgal.com received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.