Cynthia Bond has written about how terrible human beings are in the most beautiful way possible. I never really needed to use the term “lush prose” until I read this book. The words are fat, and gorgeous, and paint a picture that you wish was not quite so vivid because Ruby is full of horror and misery, and a tiny bit of loveliness.
The story of Ruby is the story of a young black woman who tried to outrun her past, and found that it wouldn’t stay in the past. Mostly set around the time of the Washington Riots, a letter from a beloved friend reached Ruby, and she made the choice to return home to her small town. Once home, she found small minds, judgement, and secrets waiting to tear her down, and Ruby’s descent into mental illness is met with smugness and derision, not compassion. Many of the characters are just horrible, but Bond doesn’t let you have the satisfaction of completely despising them, because almost all of them have some horrible happening in their own past that twisted them – and it almost makes it worse, because they could maybe have been good people. Maybe.
Some of the characters are truly evil. I’m talking gag inducing, have to put the book down for a while evil. This book has child abuse, sexual abuse, and rape in it, and you should be prepared for that.
If you can manage it, read it. It is heart searing, dreadful, flashback prompting – beautiful. And there is a little hope for humanity in there, I promise.
Don’t be surprised if this starts showing up as required reading for English Literature classes. Wow. One of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time.