[720]: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

by Cynthia Bond

This was such a difficult book to read and even harder to decipher. On the surface, it’s the story of a woman scorned for being a daughter of a black woman and a white man. Her beauty became the scourge that she carried most of her life; the source of her strength and frailties. The torment that had brought her insanity in her later life.

From the very young age, she’s known indescribable abuse. Her mother left her to escape the same abuse Ruby would be subjected to growing up. At 10, she was sold to a madam who would sell her every night to men of despicable character. At 13, she would lose her child who would torment her for the rest of her life. In 1950, she would escape to New York only to do the same thing over again.

This book is ripe with the kind of African American history that I never knew existed. In the South where satanism and sexual abuse seemed to go hand-in-hand in the darkest, depraved way possible. It was suffused in magical realism of the religious kind. Where the “power of the Lord” compels men to “train” girls of such young age to “hone their craft”. Is it any wonder Ruby lost her mind? A screeching, half-naked woman who carries with her the souls of dead children; forever haunted by a being who would never let her rest.

 In the midst of the overall depressing history was a slight ray of hope in the person of Ephram Jennings. He ignored ridicule and the scorn of everyone in town, including that of his sister whom he called, “mama”. They, too, came from a home who’ve seen the worst abuses from the hands of their father. In this effect, you can say that it’s love story. A love story in the simplest of form; one that had the ability to save a person from oneself.

Ruby is a heavy read – heavier than I’ve anticipated. I read it at a time when I was feeling a little lost myself so my initial rating was a little low. I remember being furious at the townspeople who have judged Ruby and the men who took advantage of someone who was not in their full mental capacity. Filthy or not, they came to her for sex regardless if she’s covered in weeks’ worth of grime. I was mad at Ruby for pushing Ephram away and I was mad at Ephram for not standing up to Ruby. This book was a real story of survival, of madness and of love. It was more often difficult but with a clearer mind, you’ll find the beauty of Ms. Bond’s words.

  • I have to admit, I’m usually not a fan of Oprah’s choices (with the exception of a couple) but I have to say you actually made me more curious about this one. I think it has to do more about the history I probably didn’t know about. I’m always fascinated by things I don’t know! 😀

  • Wow, this one sounds like a powerful read. Definitely a difficult book, but I’m sure more than worth it. Great review!

  • This does sound like a tough read. It is very interesting to see how authors are able to bring out different emotions and how you can feel differently after you think about them for a while. Great review.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

  • This sounds like a very difficult book to read from an emotional perspective, but a rewarding one too. I’ve been burned by a few of those “Oprah’s book club picks” titles but from everything you’ve said, this sounds like an incredible story. Just not one that I’ll be reading when I’m feeling down.

  • RO

    In the middle of watching DVR showing of Price is Right and thought I’d stop in to say “Hey”! Hugs…

  • Wow I hadn’t heard of this one before but now it’s definitely going onto my TBR. I normally find when I read a ‘heavy’ read I interchange it with something a bit lighter afterwards, but there is definitely a time when something emotionally hard-hitting can really make an impact. That being said, the content does sound quite confronting, though it’s interesting to read your take on it. Thanks for sharing!

  • I had someone recommend this one to me recently too Joy and the synopsis didn’t sound as heavy as what the narration seems to be. I struggle with young characters experiencing trauma throughout a storyline and being thrown into a life of sex slavery might be a little too confronting for me. I’m hoping it doesn’t use graphic details because it would have to be a no for me.It sounds utterly compelling though and I’m really hoping that isn’t the case.

  • Jasprit

    I don’t think I’d be able to deal with tough reads like this one with everything going on right now, but I can see why you would have found yourself drawn to this book. Well done for sticking it out too! Great review Joy!

  • This would definitely not be one for me. I respect that you were able to read the whole thing plus see some beauty in the authors words though. Great review Joy!

  • This sounds heavy. I am not sure I would want to try this one.

  • This sounds like it was a difficult read, and the type of book that you need to be in the right frame of mind for – I’m not sure I would be ever in the right mood to read it, but I think it’s important that books like this exist.

  • i would say kudos to the author for writing a book so real that you can find it hard to read

  • This just sounds like the kind of novel which would tear my mind apart with being so hard to handle emotionally. It sounds like she is truly going through a difficult time simply because of her birth. The magical realism element to it sounds like another addition which only makes the characters pain more raw.

  • Karen

    I love how you changed your mind a bit about the book after a little bit of reflection . It’s always good when a story fires you up like that.

    For What It’s Worth

  • Oh man, this does sound so heavy. It makes me think of the YA that came out a while back called “Little Peach.” I always wanted to read it, but could never bring myself to. I have to be in a brave, healthy mindset to throw myself into books like these.

  • This sounds like a tough read. I may have to seek it out now because I have absolutely nothing else to read around here, lol.

  • Wow Joy, this does sound like it was a hard read. I cannot even imagine what it would’ve been like to be treated and abused like that. Fabulous review!

  • That does sound incredibly depressing and like a very hard read. Solid review!

  • wow this does sound kind of a really hard read. I can see where the frustration might have set. My husband would just respond to that with – well than wasn’t it amazing for the author to evoke those kind of feels? I guess so? Great review

  • This sounds like a really tough book to read. I am not sure that it is for me. I usually avoid any book with Oprah’s stamp on the cover…lol. They are just usually heavier books than I enjoy reading. Great review!

  • I’m not sure if I could read this. It sounds way, way too real. I stick to scifi and fantasy and even horror because you know, in the end, that it’s not real – totally fake and therefore safe. This kind of horror is not safe. Not sure if I could handle it!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

  • Wow, this does sound like a really difficult read. I’m definitely intrigued, though.

  • Wow, this sounds like it will definitely make me overly emotional, and its been sitting on my kindle for a while. Great Review! Tori @ In Tori Lex

  • This sounds absolutely horrible. I can’t handle heavy books like this. I tried reading The Underground Railroad and got so depressed that I had to quit half way through. Now I’m glad that I never tried reading this one.

  • Oh yes not an easy one there

  • Ah, this book do sound pretty heartbreaking, and I do not think I could take it or enjoy it :p I’m glad you liked it some 🙂 But sorry it wasn’t all that awesome : Thank you for sharing about it, though. <3

  • Sold, I want to read this more for the human element than anything. Btw, did Mitch McC ever respond to your letter?

  • Beautifully written: “This book was a real story of survival, of madness and of love. It was more often difficult but with a clearer mind, you’ll find the beauty of Ms. Bond’s words.” I’m glad you discovered the gem in this, Joy!!

  • RO

    It’s great when an author gives you those “feels” when you’re reading a book, and to bring about such vivid imagery. Those were some dark times for sure, and would be a little rough to read and take in. Hugs…

  • shootingstarsmag

    Woah – definitely sounds like a really intense read. I don’t know if this would be a good fit for me or not. I mean, I don’t mind darker reads – but still!


  • Wow! This sounds like a deep book, Joy. I don’t think I can do it though. Books like these always make me want to crawl into a hole and stay there forever. But I can see how powerful it is and how important of a read it might be for some readers.
    Great review!

  • It’s just too much, too much

  • This doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. Depressing and confusing are not my type of entertainment. Thanks for the lovely review, Joy! 🙂