Let me warn you all in advance. This book didn't receive many "good" ratings on Goodreads, but I really enjoyed and I think it's worth your time. Let me tell you why...
"I learned, slowly, that if you don't look at the world with perfect vision, you're bound to get yourself cooked." Having come within an inch of her life, Ruth Dahl is determined to take a good look at it—and to figure out whether, in fact, she's to blame for the mess. Pegged the loser in a small-town family that doesn't have much going for it in the first place, Ruth grows up in the shadow of her brilliant brother, trying to survive in a world of poverty and hardship. Matt's brain is his ticket out of Honey Creek. Ruth, without options, cleaves instead to her tough, half-crazy mother, May, and eventually to Ruby, the sweet but slightly deranged young man she loves, marries, and supports. Ruth spots stains at Trim 'N Tidy dry cleaners, bowls at the Town Lanes, and tries in vain to keep the peace at home between May, whose lashing criticisms blow through the cramped house with gale force, and Ruby, who spends his days getting stoned and watching reruns of Bewitched on television. When the precarious household erupts in violence, Ruth is the only one who can piece their story together—and she gets to the truth in a manner at once ferocious, hilarious, and heartbreaking.
In this powerful, incandescent novel, Jane Hamilton has worked a small miracle: she has given voice to a young woman who is indistinguishable except for her passion in her commitment to life. The Book of Ruth is a stunning testament to the human capacity for mercy, compassion, and love.
And here are my thoughts:
The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I must admit, after spotting many negative reviews of this on Goodreads, I was a little wary to read this. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a few years, and I thought I'd give it a try.
I ended up really liking this book. It's not the easiest book to read, in regards to its subject matter, but I think it's an important one, all the same.
Basically, this is the story of Ruth and her life. I liked Ruth. She may have been simple-minded, but sometimes, she'd say something that really just made me think, and I love authors who can do that. Ruth is not pretentious and she's not trying to tell a woe-is-me story, even though my heart broke for her again and again. You really get the feeling that she's just telling her story, whatever it entails, good or bad. Ruth is a very naive person, but at the same time she has this astounding deeper understanding of the way life and nature works.
I'm not quite sure what it was that sucked me into this book. I usually don't go for these depressing reads, and this one really is a bummer. Poor Ruth just can't get a break. I was rooting for her the whole time though, and maybe I kept reading because I wanted to see her break free. Because of this, the foreshadowing greatly enhanced the impact of the final climax for me. I wanted to see Ruth make it on her own and the foreshadowing made me want to see it even more. I don't want to give away the ending because it certainly flabbergasted me, but I like to think that she's gonna make it some day and "try her wings," as she says. She mentions at the end of the novel that she wishes she could change her name to "Ruth Truth," but I think a better name would be "Resilient Ruth."
Possibly one of the things that kept me reading was the character development. I tend to feel a close connection with the character telling the story, so it wasn't difficult for me to relate to Ruth. At times, she angered me, only because she would understand one of the other characters but be naive about some of the others. I was frustrated especially with her feelings about Ruby. May was a fascinating character to me. I hated her and she made me sick sometimes, but then she'd say something or do something that made me feel more sorry for her than anything else.
Overall, I think this was a beautifully written, albeit depressing, book well worth a read.
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