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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Ruby: A Novel - Cynthia Bond

Ruby is such an extraordinary novel. I sort of feel sorry for it and its author because I worry it will not get the attention it deserves. It's written so well and the story is so captivating, but the subject and some of those scenes will surely alienate many.


Cynthia Bond writes like a young Toni Morrison. I love Toni Morrison, but I must say that I much prefer her earlier work. Morrison's writing has always been phenomenal, but her more recent books do not engage me. They're gorgeously written, but they lack story. Bond writes with that same lyrical lushness that Morrison is famous for, but this story never falters. Ruby bears the same passion and a similar gift as The Bluest Eye or Beloved. The writing is wonderful. The story is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. The characters are wonderfully drawn (though not necessarily believable).


If you've seen the film Forrest Gump, you have an idea of the love story that weaves its way into the bigger plot of Ruby. Simple-minded, wonderful boy gives the most unadulterated love he can to the girl who doesn't seem to deserve his love or want it. It's a sweet story. It's the kind of sweet romance you find in Ephram and Ruby. It's a gentle story; the problem is, in Ruby there's nothing gentle about it.


In full disclosure, Ruby is perhaps the single most disturbing book I've ever read. Bam, automatic rejection by many readers. It's sad, because it's such a good book; but part of what makes it so good is that it is so sad. So. Incredibly. Sad. Readers who are sensitive to taboo subjects and horrendous situations (particularly those involving children) honestly should avoid this novel. I hate to say that, because it's a good novel, but I also hate to lead readers to a book they may be disgusted by. What follows is a list of subjects the book tackles, many in vivid scenes, which some readers may be sensitive to. I've placed them within spoiler tags to avoid any “spoilage”: 

molestation, prostitution, child sex slavery, lynching, rape, murder, child abuse, gang rape, occultism, evangelism, racism, incest, substance abuse, misogyny...

(show spoiler)

Ruby is not for the squeamish, or for those with such large hearts they break every time they find out how wicked society can be. Personally, I was greatly distressed by a couple of the scenes in this book. I'm sure their memory will continue to haunt me in years to come as other scenes from books and film have occasionally done. Still, I'm glad I read the novel. It may have shown me how dark the world is, but it also showed me how beautiful a good person's deeds can be.