Monday, May 21, 2018

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Growing up wasn't easy in the east Texas small town of Liberty if you were African-American.  Mired in poverty and prejudice, the townsfolk banded together to try to make a life, forcing those who didn't conform to the outside.  Ruby Bell's family was on the outside.  The three girls were beautiful and could even pass for white but their beauty didn't bring them joy.  Instead, it brought them the attention of men, both black and white, who took from them what they weren't willing to give.

If there was an admired family, it would be the Jennings family.  The father was the preacher at the local church and railed against the ills of his society.  There were two children.  Celia was the girl who always did what was expected of her and was at the church whenever the doors opened.  Ephram was her younger brother, ready to follow Celia's lead especially after his mother was taken away and hospitalized.  Celia had raised Ephram and the two live together as adults.

Ruby ran from Liberty as soon as she was able and went to New York where the rumor was her mother had fled before her.  She moves through the city searching for her mother but instead finds the seamy clubs and alleyways that operated on the fringe of society.  When a telegram reached her insisting her best friend growing up needed her, she reluctantly returned to Liberty.  There she quickly descended into madness and poverty as the sins of her society came to rest solely on her shoulders.

But perhaps there is hope.  Ephram has loved Ruby from afar even as a child.  Now can he find the courage to demonstrate that love to her and save her, even against the thoughts of the entire town and everyone he knows?  Can he find the courage to protect Ruby against the men who degrade her and the women who shun her?  Can he and Ruby perhaps find happiness?

Cynthia Bond is one of the new novelists who are gaining fame and this is her debut novel.  It was an Indie Pick, an Oprah Book Club selection and a Barnes And Nobles Discover Great New Writers pick.  Her ability to take the reader into a life that is hard to imagine and to create a heroine who refuses to let the world take everything from her is astounding.  Readers will not soon forget this book that draws a picture of what prejudice and evil can do to everyday people and yet where there is life there is hope.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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