Ruby by Cynthia Bond

I’ve just finished this book, which is the most disturbing, gripping, nightmarish novel I’ve read in a good few years. It’s been the sort of book which I’ve had to put down a few times, as it’s held me in a dark pit of storytelling, thrashing about in the hell of men.

I’d read the synopsis, so thought I knew what I was letting myself in for, but nothing prepared me for the horror. Set in the deep south of mid-century America, it’s a story of racism, fear, strength, beauty, and religion. Religion being the thread which holds it all together. Religion which has a lot to answer for, as always.

I have the same feeling about this book as I did when I read Anne Frank’s diary. I kept thinking to myself, this actually happened. Maybe not in the exact same way, and obviously it’s a work of fiction, but these situations arose and people like this did and do exist. It’s a hard read as a parent but it’s also a hard read as a human with any empathy and compassion.

The author has written from the soul, for her the character of Ruby lived and breathed like a real person. Sometimes it’s confusing, chopping and changing between reality and the other worldly (to put it mildly) but it was the atmosphere of the book which was consistent and so kept it all flowing.

I am intrigued as to whether this will win the Bailey Prize for fiction, being up against A Little life for one – each book as disturbing and powerful as the next, but in very different ways. I’m going to go for Ruby (having read all but 1 of the novels), but time will tell.






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