Ruby (Bond)

Sometimes, I will choose a book because of the comments made about it by an author I admire. So when I saw that Edwidge Danticat had blurbed Cynthia Bond’s first book, I added it to my list. Here’s what’s easy to say. Bond is a remarkable writer. You can pretty much open the book at random and find a passage that will carry you away, by virtue of its syntax and momentum, its diction and insight, for pages at a time.

But in addition to the beauty of the language, there is also the brutality of the content. Incidents and history wrap around each other and explain why these damaged people continue to damage each other. For me, the sexual violence was hard to read.

Ruby returns to Liberty (perhaps a better title for the book?). She has returned to her past to both escape and return. And she disrupts a community that’s found a kind of awful harmony with itself. Ephram Jennings tries to change the course of things, but the prospect of change, especially in such a small town with its own troubled history, does not sit well with anyone, including and especially his sister Celia, whom he calls Mama.

There’s magic here, too, a disturbed cousin to the prevailing and often superficial religious devotion. But magic here seems like the wrong word to describe what goes on here. The woods in Liberty have seen too much, both magical and otherwise.

Though I didn’t think the story was resonating with me, I must’ve connected at least a bit as I was dismayed and then grateful when Bond presented Ruby’s first redemption as insufficient.

According to Oprah, it’s the first of a trilogy (


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