This book is definitely not one that I can recommend. I found it very difficult to read and to understand. I had the feeling that I get when I read poetry that I can’t connect to. I will give it two stars since I did enjoy the section of Ruby, Maggie and Ephram when they were young. And the powerfulness of Ephram’s love for Ruby and his efforts on her behalf were very touching. Also the eerie atmosphere was very well created with literary finesse. But Ruby herself never came alive for me as a human being. Her portrayal felt disjointed, almost as though she was just a vessel to be used in the book to show the brutality against African Americans during that time period.
I at first thought that the demonic possession of this young girl was only a figment of her imagination and mental illness caused by the horrific events of her life. But no, the demon was an actual character in the book, as were the ghosts of the murdered children who lived in Ruby’s womb. While that would not normally turn me away from a well-written book, I just never could connect with this book. This is a bitter, angry book with no hope of redemption. I’m not a reader of light, fluffy books and tend to lean towards the darker side of literary fiction, but this book was over and above what I can stand. It was confusing and difficult to read. This book was described by the publisher as a novel of passion and courage but I found it to be one of crude lust and hopelessness. I’m very glad to put this novel behind me and to start reading something else to get this bad taste out of my mind.
I won this book in a LibraryThing giveaway.
I've been on my Spring Break reading vacation since 5:00PM on Thursday and have, with brief breaks, been mainlining fiction ever since. So far, I have completed four books by reading constantly, only pausing to sleep, eat, and do my taxes. But this afternoon, I had to set aside Cynthia Bond's Ruby because the book was too intense for me to handle all in one go—just like Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things...
Read the rest of my review at Summer Reading Project.
Ruby was a book that I started on blind faith in an author's tweeted recommendation. I had no mental preparation for the what I was to experience. On several occasions I considered not finishing. I did not have fun reading Ruby. I am left wondering how reading a book like this has meaning.
I had a hard time following and understanding everything in Ruby. It jumps back and forth in time from different character perspectives. There is an element of magical realism with voodoo, and something called a Dyboù that invades people's spirits, and that shit always mixes me up. It really took most of the book for me to get a bead on how things were connected and the overall story arc. There is also a good deal of symbolism used throughout, and I'm smart enough to recognize it as such, but not quite smart (or poetic) enough to understand the meaning.
Ruby (the book) is filled with bad people doing bad things, evil things. Even worse, all the shame and blame for their bad deeds gets dumped squarely on the victims. This book takes victim blaming to an unimaginable level. Which makes me feel guilty. And bad. Because there were scenes that were so horrible, I hoped they might not have been real, just something dreamed up by Ruby and her PTSD rattled mind. But no, it really happened to Ruby. And unlike semi-realistic horror stories that you can read for a good scare (think Rosemary's Baby), you can't walk away knowing it was dreamed up just to scare you. Because this shit came from somewhere. There are a few moments of relief, of hope, of tenderness. But most of the time, there is no mercy from the author.
Speaking of the author, this is a debut novel and I was impressed. It was not just an author spewing shock and horror, but rather, the the author artfully placing you in inside the head of Ruby and you experience everything as she does. According to the author, Ruby initially was 900+ pages, and since has been broken down into 3 books. Since the story line was written in a very non-linear fashion, I wonder if subsequent books will bounce around fill some gaps.
As for recommending Ruby, the prudent thing to do would be to recommend it with trigger warnings. But I don't want to do that. I want everyone to read it, to be beat up by it, just like I was. In reading this book, am I taking a blow for Ruby and all victims of abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking?
I have tortured by having to rate this book. I have seriously considered keeping it unrated. Instead, I will let my unemotional analytical side take over and break it down. Here goes:
5 stars for post read PTSD
5 stars for incredible writing chops
3.5 stars for plot
4 stars for character
1 star for enjoyment
Average, 3.7 rounded up.