fiction, reviews

Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Cynthia Bond
352 pages
Published in April 2014 by Hogarth
Source: Publisher

I didn’t have any interest in reading Cynthia Bond’s Ruby until I read the author’s bio. When I read how the author used to teach writing to homeless and at-risk youth, I knew Bond understood that all stories are important, especially those that usually lie in the margins of society. So when a publicist from Hogarth contacted me about Ruby, I decided to finally give it a try.

Ruby Bell is a woman who’s been through so much from an early age. The product of dire circumstances, Ruby was abandoned by her mother as a baby and life after that didn’t get any easier. The citizens of her small hometown, Liberty Township, “wove Ruby into cautionary tales of the wages of sin and travel. They called her buck-crazy. Howling, half-naked mad.”

All except Ephram Jennings.

Even as a child, Ephram understood that there was something different about Ruby, some secret that was wrapped so tightly around her. Unlike the rest of the town, who enjoyed seeing Ruby’s descent into madness and despair, Ephram wanted nothing more than to protect her. What follows is an emotional and devastating debut about a woman’s emotional journey from madness to hope.

I gave you a little summary about the book. Anything else would ruin the plot for you or just scare you off. That’s definitely not what I want.

It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I read praise comparing Cynthia Bond to Toni Morrison. Like Morrison’s Beloved, Ruby takes the past evils of the South to another dimension, a magical one. Because I didn’t really have any idea what the book was about, the magical elements were unexpected but in the end, it really helps in telling the intertwined stories.

Read Ruby. Then, find a friend to talk about it with because you’re going to want to. My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I can’t wait to read Bond’s future work.

An excerpt:

Marilyn held her daughter. She would be hurt, of that Marilyn was certain. Helpless to protect her, Marilyn felt a wildness in her own chest, like a bird trapped behind a glass door. But when she looked in the girl’s eyes she could see that she was already gone so she gave her words to help her in the dark days:

“Your daddy and me named Otha. It means ‘wealth.’ You were your daddy’s treasure from the time you were born until he died. He used to say there were rubies buried deep inside of you. Remember, baby, don’t never let a man mine you for your riches. Don’t let him take a pickax to that treasure in your soul. Remember, they can’t get it until you give it to them. They might lie and try to trick you out of it, baby, and they’ll try. They might lay a hand on you, or worse, they might break your spirit, but the only way they can get it is to convince you it’s not yours to start with. To convince you there’s nothing there but a lump of coal…”

17 thoughts on “Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond”

  1. The magical aspects of the book usually turn me off but this book has gotten plenty of good reviews, so I do want to give it a try.

  2. I’ve been waiting for your review! Isn’t it an incredible book? I’ve never read a book that left me feeling like Ruby did. I just loved Ephram.

  3. I just can’t with this book. I have gone back and forth about whether to read it, and I know I’m missing out on some really good fiction this year by not reading this and not reading Bitter Greens and not reading An Untamed State — but I just can’t. I’ll read all the nonfiction about sexual violence there is, but I can’t deal with it anymore in my fiction.

    1. That’s okay. 🙂 You know what you can and can’t take. I haven’t read a lot of fiction that includes sexual violence and had no idea that Ruby contained any. If I had known that about Ruby or An Untamed State, I probably would have avoided them too. Reading about sexual violence can be so hard.


  4. I’ve been back and forth about whether to read this book and am still on the fence. The magical elements and the sexual violence definitely turn me off, but I’ve seen some great reviews… I also have Untamed State on my Kindle and am now not sure about that one after reading the comments here.

  5. I just finished reading The Enchanted, and it sounds like this one will be a wonderfully complementary read to that one. Thanks for the review – and I recommend you try The Enchanted if you have not already.

  6. A comparison to Toni Morrison is, indeed, high praise! It makes me all the more eager to discover it. I am so glad to read you loved this one.

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