Ruby: Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016
By Cynthia Bond
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS’ WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
PICKED BY OPRAH FOR HER BOOK CLUB 2.0
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING DEBUT
Voodoo, faith and racism converge in an East Texas town, where a man is forced to choose between the sister who raised him and the disgraced woman he has loved since he was a boy
A tough but moving read. Very evocative of the times and places it was set. I must admit some bits were hard to stomach, but as they said in the book (might be paraphrasing) 'if you can bear to live it, I can bear to listen'. Very caught up with the characters by the end.
"If you're brave enough to live it, the least I can do is listen." Ephram Jennings. We all agreed that Ruby is not any easy read and its subject matter is horrific. Cynthia does not shy away from her descriptions of rape, child trafficking and more which truly turns the reader's stomach. However this is perhaps one of the most beautifully written novels we have ever read. Amidst the horror, the reader will be uplifted by the power of unconditional and pure love. It also shows that we never truly know the horrors of someone's life and we all know this book will stay with us forever. We felt it is a worthy winner of the Bailey's prize.
My bookgroup was fortunate enough to be chosen to shadow the 2016 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction books, and this was our chosen read.
This is a dark and evocative book. It addresses issues such as child abuse, voodoo, life in small (minded?) communities, rape, incest, prostitution, black magic and ultimately the power of love over hate. It's certainly not a book for the faint of heart (one of our group gave up on the book due to the themes - but agreed to finish it after hearing the rest of the comments in our discussion). However, Bond's writing is superb and handles each element with style and grace. By the end of the book I wanted to know more about Ruby and Ephram - two truly unforgettable characters.
All of our group enjoyed this read (with the exception of the one mentioned above!) and we all agreed it was a book that would stay with us for a long time. (As an aside - I can also heartily recommend making the cake mentioned in the book!)
This book crackles with Magic and Voodoo, telling Ruby’s story as she grows up in a black township in East Texas. It draws you into a small town world where everyone knows your business and is quick to make judgement of it. Where being from the right family assures you power and respect, but being weak and vulnerable can lead to the most horrific circumstances.
This tale follows a young girl who escapes to New York and becomes someone else entirely before being called back home by haints and spirits. How the towns people respond to her reappearance says more about them and their character, with some truly awful behaviour from those that should know better. As Ruby becomes most in need of help, it is only one person who remembers the little girl and dares to defy the townsfolk to help her.
The way in which this town in the heart of the Bible belt uses religion to repress the people ensuring they toe the line, yet giving them a shield to hide behind when faced with something different is fascinating. It is almost wielded as a weapon against anything that is beyond their standard way life, even against one of their own who steps up to help.
The writing in this book is truly beautiful with some mesmeric descriptions, it bounces off the page, it lingers with me long after finishing reading.