Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby  by Cynthia Bond
Review by Lena M

Publisher: Two Roads
Published: March 2015

Originality: ♥♥♥♥
Quality of Writing: ♥♥♥♥♥
Characters: ♥♥♥♥♥
Overall: ♥♥♥♥

Set in small town America in the 1940s and 50s, Ruby is a literary breakthrough in penning down the ordinary day lives of ordinary people. It is essentially a simple story set within the bounds of a lyrical compound of a hard-hitting and thought-provoking narrative. The simple title of the novel pretty much says it all: it is a story about a girl named Ruby. However, within reading the first fifty pages of the novel, it is not hard to realise that there is nothing simple at all in this rather horrifying and moving novel.

Ruby is a mixed race child who knows not where she belongs; born as the product of rape from a white mother, she is thrust into a lifestyle that is most dazzling and painful, and it is difficult for herself to know whether she is coming or going. There is no happiness in her story. Everything is dark, and with each little story of her childhood journey into womanhood, we are shown with the trembling beauty of Bond's words the realities of someone who is broken from the minute she was conceived.

The most amazing thing is how the title names one character that is central to the book, but also the surrounding characters are so brilliantly outlined we find that the novel is about everyone. Every single character has a voice so deep and prominent that we are sucked into this far away world in the past, in a corner of America that would be so hard to bring to life in any modern narrative. Five stars to Bond there.

The construction of scenes from Ruby and Ephram's memory in the past to their actions in the present is very well crafted. There are several graphic images, and near the three-quarter mark of the novel it did feel like there was an image of rape on every other page. There is so much in this book that makes you want to cry, and so much about the writing that makes you want to smile with literary satisfaction. I, myself, cannot decide on how to feel about this book. I understand how the violent sexual scenes made everything more realistic, but at times I thought the reader was being put through a rather terrible emotional roller coaster.

The beginning of the novel wasn't as strong as the second half, but as this is a very character driven novel, a solid and detailed introduction is needed for the reader to fully understand the novel. At the least, I am glad I read through to the end, but although I give Bond's writing ability a full five stars, my overall rating is four stars for reasons I have yet to put my finger on. 


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