Review by: Nicole Howard
Ruby was selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.
Dark Truth in Fiction – It’s that feeling I got watching Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis in the episode of How to Get Away with Murder or watching the Color Purple. When you know that art is imitating life. As you read the book Ruby, you might see yourself in the main character or Ruby Bell might remind you of someone you know. The book is set in a small town in East Texas and presents topics that will make your heartache, because you know the words are fiction but can also be someone’s reality.
Cynthia Bond’s writing reminds me of the magic I felt flying off the page when I read, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. You find yourself underlining prose that makes you stop longer than necessary once you reach the end of a sentence.
Cynthia finds a way to balance the horrific details of racism, murder, human trafficking, and rape with a beautiful love story between Ephram Jennings and Ruby Bell (See resources on these topics). The love Ephram shows toward Ruby is breathtaking, beautiful, and a reminder of the power love has to restore.
Woven into the story are symbols that remind me of the voodoo images in the Disney movie, Princess & the Frog, set in New Orleans, Louisiana. Cynthia Bond adds in the “Dyboù” this evil spirit that takes over the characters who abuse Ruby. There are also spirits of Ruby’s children that haunt her, throughout the book she is seen outside taking care of them. These actions among many others have given her the reputation of a girl who has lost her mind, she is no longer sane, she’s seen as dirty, and is an outcast in the town. Even with the negative reputation men still flock to her home to do what they please knowing no one will protect her. At times I get lost with the addition of the “Dybou” and the spirits. I think it is due to the mystical feeling versus the realistic story line. You have to figure out for yourself what these elements bring to the story and what is the author trying to say?
I would suggest learning more about what inspired Cynthia Bond to write the book. Her inspiration includes her family dealing with racism and murder, her own past dealing with abuse, and the stories she heard working as a social worker. The interview in O Magazine (March issue) is an informative resource (Read an excerpt here) or read her Q&A .
(Watch more clips from the Super Soul Sunday episode: here)
Overall, Ruby is a page turner that shows us the events in life beyond our control can effect us, but don’t have to break us. It’s a reminder that we all could use a little genuine love and help to restore us.
Look out for the next book in this trilogy coming soon.
Check out Cynthia Bond online: http://cynthiabond.com/
Twitter: Facebook: facebook.com/cynthiabondruby
Did you read Ruby? Tell me what you think in the comments or on twitter: #ShininLightBookWorms
Read an excerpt of the book here provided by Crown Publishing Group.
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.