I am indebted to Bookbridgr, Two Roads Books and Yassine Belkacemi for providing a review copy of ‘Ruby’ by Cynthia Bond.
As an adult, Ruby Bell returns to the small East Texan town of Liberty where she lived as a child, having endured an incredible life of violence and sexual abuse. She has never been forgotten by Ephram Jennings who has loved her all his life. The novel outlines their love story against a powerful and disturbing background.
I would not say that ‘Ruby’ is an easy read. I found some of the descriptions so vivid as to be disturbing and shocking and I think some readers would perhaps find a few concepts too unsavoury. However, the themes of child abuse, domestic violence, religious hypocrisy, racism, madness, witchcraft, superstition and sexuality are woven into a mesmerising text. Reading ‘Ruby’ is a bit like looking at an intricate tapestry and the more you look, the more there is to see and understand. What is so impressive is that there is also humour and pragmatic realism alongside the more mystical elements within the story, especially when Cynthia Bond describes the towns people.
The prose is beautiful and savage so that the reader experiences a range of emotions almost against their will. Characters are so well depicted it is difficult, for example, not to hate Ephram’s sister Celia, even if she has had to devote her life to bringing him up.
It took me a while to adjust to the dialects of the townspeople and to accept the Dybou elements, but once I’d adjusted as a reader I found ‘Ruby’ completely enthralling. If I say that I gave up trying to sleep because I was thinking about the book and so continued reading at four in the morning, you’ll get an idea of the hold the narrative obtains over the reader. ‘Ruby’ is an extraordinary book.