Can you remember the last book that you read that you absolutely loved? How about the last one you absolutely hated? The answer to that question for me is the same. Ruby by Cynthia Bond. The prose in this novel is simply put…brilliant. Bond really does have a way with words. Not only is it stunning, it is also filled with deep meaning and thoughts. It often demands of you to pause and relish in its aftermath. Because, yes…sometimes it is not just beautiful…sometimes it is also downright brutal.
I won’t go into all the plots and twists of this story…I will instead just list quotes and more quotes so you too can see exactly what I mean when I say Bond’s prose is both beautiful and brutal….
She wore gray like rain clouds and wandered the red roads in bared
feet. calluses thick as boot leather. Hair caked with mud. Blackened
nails as if she had scratched the slate of night. Her acres of legs
carrying her, arms swaying like a loose screen. Her eyes the ink of
sky, just before the storm.
Celia poured the steam back in his coffee.
Maggie cut her eyes against his face, her fists tight in her lap.
‘Beatin’ ain’t the worse can happen to a body.’ The orange tip of her
cigarette devoured the white.
Ruby felt the lonely before it came. Knew that for all she’d have to
face when she left this tiny shack, the lonely would be the worst of
it. She knew too that it was the thing each of them shared, only it
was waiting for them in different places. For Ruby it was a room at
Miss Barbara’s. For Maggie it was the minute after Ruby said good-bye.
And for Ephram, it was right here, right now. She felt how the lonely
never left him, not even sitting beside her.
Some folk say after time she come to love him. Others say she jes’
give in to shame. Me, I don’t know much, ’cept that he chased her all
the way to lonely. And once you make it there, ain’t too many choices
By the time Ephram turned fifteen, he and Gubber were barely speaking
to one another. Ephram watched Gubber swell and grow and strain
against the fence of clothing, only to build a bigger fence, only to
strain, again and again. Gubber wouldn’t look at Ephram if they passed
in school or at P & K, and worse, when circumstance threw them
together, Ephram became the perfect foil for Gubber, a soft, weakened
thing to point out when collective fangs were bared. The fact that he
accomplished this with a chain of rebukes and thick jokes, and that
those actions had done more harm to Gubber Samuels than himself, was
not lost on Ephram. He’d watched Gubber swallow his kindness and shit
it out until all that remained was the waste of a good man.
Your daddy and me named you 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.
I’m still trying to figure out why I obviously disliked this novel so much when it’s clear that I also loved it just as much as I hated it. There is some black magic in this novel. That doesn’t bother me. There is also much abuse. Again, that didn’t bother me (well, it DOES bother me, but not a reason I disliked this novel). I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to suss it out…I think for me, Bond only touched on some areas (the Ruby that was in New York, Ephram’s sister, Maggie, Charlotte and so many other things) and yet she seemed to go on and on about others (Chauncy and the Dybou in particular). It’s almost as if Bond was trying to beat us with the worst of the lot to wear us down and overwhelm us. For me it just didn’t work. See, evil is evil. We all know that. We don’t need that shoved down our throats. But it’s the tragic that overtakes the good that really display just how evil that evil can get. It was all too lopsided for me. I realise that Ruby was overwhelmed with the evil….but the real tragedy was hidden into the why she was overwhelmed with it. It didn’t just happen. There were other’s involved. There were layers and layers that all conspired together to get to that point. What made the Reverend into the man he became? Why was Maggie so protective. Why did Charlotte run? Why was Celia so broken?
Yes, I realise that Bond touched on all of this….but that’s just it. She only touched on it. Yet she seemed to beat us over the head with Chauncy and Dybou without really going into the cause of their characters, only the effect.
I do realise that if Bond had given this novel the depth and care that it deserved that it might very well mean that the novel was twice it’s length. I wish that novel was written. There was so many things to be learnt in those missing pages. So much depth that her prose promised us. That is why, although I love it…I also felt cheated….and a bit bored with it….
Review copy provided by Edelweiss for an honest review
Buy it now Ruby by Cynthia Bond