Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

ruby“The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her—this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
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.” – Goodreads

Ruby by Cynthia Bond is by far one of the most stunning, powerful novels I have read in a long, long while. Bond oozes talent, and her almost magical prose brings to life a haunting and cruel world in the 1970’s rural South in which a young woman struggles to survive the horrors of her childhood and the indignities of her life in the now. Racial issues abound in this novel, as do themes of love, loss, cruelty, hope, and redemption.

Ruby was sexually abused throughout her childhood, beginning around the time she was about six years old. This abuse has shaped every aspect of her life, particularly her descent into madness and a nearly animalistic way of living. As an adult, she is continuously used and abused by the men of the town, as well. Ephram has been smitten with Ruby since the tender age of ten. When she returned from New York as an adult and began her downward spiral into insanity, he watched with pity and sadness, yet his love did not wane. After a particularly harrowing incident in town, Ephram finally gathers the courage to approach Ruby and offer his assistance.

This is a love story unlike any other I have read. It is most definitely not your traditional romance; that’s not even really what you could call it. Love Story. A story of love. That is truly what this is about, among many other things. The tenderness Ephram rains down upon Ruby as he lures her back from the depths of despair and madness is full of an aching beauty that touched me beyond measure.

What surprised me was the black magic/spiritual aspect to the novel. The voo-doo woman who lives in the woods; the men of town who participate in voo-doo practices while hiding behind a mask of religion, the dybou that roams the woods and haunts Ruby. This was unexpected and while at first I was turned off by its prescense in the story, it quickly became simply another thread to be woven in and part of the magic of the tale.

Ruby is a novel that, although I finished it a while ago, still haunts my mind at moments. I have a feeling it is going to stick with me for a long time to come. It will touch you, as well, if you give it the chance. Read Ruby today. {Note: Ruby is the first in a multi-generational trilogy of novels}

Ruby by Cynthia Bond. Buy it, read it, love it.

5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

 

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