A New York Times bestseller and Oprah Book Club 2.0 selection, the epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her. This beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city—the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village—all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother.
When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen, where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby.
Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.
Ruby was a finalist for the PEN America Robert Bingham Debut Novel Award, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and an Indie Next Pick.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When Oprah Winfrey announced that she’d selected Ruby for her Oprah 2.0 Book Club, the media maven was rendered virtually speechless by her admiration for the book. We agree with Oprah’s assessment of the novel as “profound” and “gorgeous” and zipped through it as quickly as we could. We follow the story of Ruby Dell: the daughter of one of a trio of doomed, beautiful sisters from a dusty, all-black Texas town. Ruby herself has gone through soul-shattering experiences and returns to her hometown broken and unhinged, avoided by everyone but Ephram Jennings, an ally from her past. First-time author Cynthia Bond makes music out of words, ensuring that the horrifying episodes of racism and violence she writes about penetrate our hearts—and that the moments of beauty and grace touch us just as deeply.
Bond's debut novel is difficult to read for its graphic and uncomfortable portrayal of racism, sexual violence, and religious intolerance in East Texas in the 1960s and '70s. Bond is a gifted storyteller, able to make the reader squirm with anger and unease as she vividly depicts how easily bad things happen to good people. Ruby Bell is a middle-aged black woman living a feral existence in the woods of Liberty Township, a poor black community where the intolerant and superstitious inhabitants treat her with disgust as a social outcast and an unrepentant sinner because she's a prostitute. Ephram Jennings grew up with Ruby and has been in love with her for years, despite her reputation. He too is shunned and ridiculed because of his feelings for her. Their romance remains sad and painfully one-sided, regardless of Ephram's tender good intentions. Even his doting older sister, Celia, is embarrassed and ashamed by Ephram's behavior, and her deep, visceral hatred of Ruby goes back decades. Flashbacks reveal why Ruby chose a life of prostitution and why Celia hates her, as well as why Ephram struggles to get out from under his sister's influence. All of the family drama is set amid an ingrained culture of sexual exploitation of women and children, racial brutality, and the community's passive acceptance that these things are facts of life. This is a grim tale, well told, but there's no comfort in these pages just tragedy and heartache.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I bought the hardcopy of Ruby last month... it was so compelling I decided to download the audio version. While reading, the characters felt real to me... The character voices on the audio made it feel like a movie (also wondering if Ruby will me made into a movie???) The writing is like poetry... Impeccable detail is given to each sentence. The story describes such great struggle and triumph. The evil of humanity coupled with the goodness that exists is illustrated in such a complex and beautiful way.
This story is not for the faint of heart, but that being said it is so beautifully written that I could not put it down. The imagery and allegory of the root of what actually happens to real people every day will remind you why we all have worth and deserve a better life.
Could not put it down
This is a must read debut novel. Absolutely stunning in its prose and captivating in its narrative. Ruby depicts the story of woman haunted by her past and healed by love. Cythia’s ability to draw the reader into the story is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Due to the unconscionable abuse experienced by the main character the author’s precession in creating such vivid imagery can, at times, be a jolt to the psyche (as we would prefer to not to believe that such cruelty is possible). However these illustrations are outweighed by the undeniable resiliency of the human spirit as the novel unfolds. No question…Cynthia Bond is a literary force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to read more of her work.