THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteacher. He was also struck by the grace and courage with which his sister dealt with the disease that eventually took her life. In Louisiana for Ruthie's funeral in the fall of 2011, Dreher began to wonder whether the ordinary life Ruthie led in their country town was in fact a path of hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness, concealed within the modest life of a mother and teacher. In order to explore this revelation, Dreher and his wife decided to leave Philadelphia, move home to help with family responsibilities and have their three children grow up amidst the rituals that had defined his family for five generations-Mardi Gras, L.S.U. football games, and deer hunting.
As David Brooks poignantly described Dreher's journey homeward in a recent New York Times column, Dreher and his wife Julie "decided to accept the limitations of small-town life in exchange for the privilege of being part of a community."
For author and Dallas Morning News columnist Dreher and his baby sister, Ruthie, their tiny Louisiana parish defined them as they grew up, bringing a sense of belonging to her and a need to escape for him. Family and community meant everything to the townspeople, and they routinely gathered at Dreher's parents' home and later his sister's, but he found himself at odds with his father and sister, yearning for experiences beyond the confining borders of the parish. Dreher writes movingly of the struggles within himself and within his family, in particular with his sister. Ruthie became a schoolteacher with a huge impact on her students, beloved by everybody, but with little patience for what she viewed as her brother's snobbish and overly intellectual thinking and lifestyle that grew into lifelong resentments. While Ruthie married her high school sweetheart before graduating from college and was content to never go far from her childhood door, Dreher changed jobs and cities multiple times even after settling down with a wife and kids. It wasn't until his sister is diagnosed at 40 with cancer that he begins to re-evaluate his plans, realizing that after two decades away he is only now able to return, at peace with the decisions he made as he works to get to know his extended family better and tries to forgive and understand them. Through his sister's life and in her death, Dreher, writing in this tender memoir, learns compassion, gratitude, and to focus on the blessings of the moment.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
This book drew me in after I heard the interview on NPR recently and it's theme I thought would be interesting, but little did I know how deeply I would be affected by a young, ordinary woman from a part of the country I have no knowledge of nor care to ever visit!
This is NO ordinary woman, place or story at all.
I read the writers words as if I was eating fine sweets or drinking a good glass of wine- always wanting more and not wanting the book to end as it inevitably had too.
I've never cried as hard as I did during the last days of Ruthie's life, one would describe me as bawling my head off in the middle of the night to be more accurate.
I think it was a combination of how I grew to love the people in the book and the way this book is written. It is a love story of people and a place that will forever have a place in my heart.
This book will be a blessing to all who read it I guarantee.
Rod, what a touching tribute to your sister and wonderful story about a Southern family. I cried through most of the book only because it was so "real." Thanks for including the pictures at the end. Heartwarming! Continue to enjoy every day with your entire family. Great job!
Engages both the head and the heart
This is a story about family, a brother and sister, home, faith, sickness and health, commitment and love. Dreher is unblinking in his descriptions of his own family of origin and how the pitfalls and the touching moments are all blended together. His sister, the title character, was clearly a beautiful soul and dedicated wife, mother, daughter and teacher. Yet this book does not idolize her. An inmate I saw once had tattooed across his chest: "My blessings are my curses". This book takes that sentiment and makes it a family crest. A heartwarming book, highly recommended.