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Rubyby Cynthia Bond
Ephram Jennings spends a lifetime in love with Ruby Bell. He is a good man with good intentions, but is she too broken to reach? A harrowing tale set in rural Texas in the '50s, Ruby is a story — and a woman — you will not be able to forget. Years and years and even generations of pain can bury a person too deep for redemption, yet Ephram can only love Ruby because that is all he knows how to do. Dark, horrific, and disturbing, Ruby is one amazing book that will crawl beneath your skin and infect you with its characters — which, surprisingly, is not at all a bad thing. This one will be on my Top Five list this year.
Bond weaves a web of madness and ghosts in this scary and very disturbing read. I feel like the book needs a warning label: explicit and devastating scenes! Yet the story and Bond's writing are so astonishingly volcanic. One of the best books I have read this year.
Synopses & Reviews
The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her — this beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city — the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village — all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby. Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby offers an unflinching portrait of man’s dark acts and the promise of the redemptive power of love.
"Bond's debut novel is difficult to read for its graphic and uncomfortable portrayal of racism, sexual violence, and religious intolerance in East Texas in the 1960s and '70s. Bond is a gifted storyteller, able to make the reader squirm with anger and unease as she vividly depicts how easily bad things happen to good people. Ruby Bell is a middle-aged black woman living a feral existence in the woods of Liberty Township, a poor black community where the intolerant and superstitious inhabitants treat her with disgust as a social outcast and an unrepentant sinner because she's a prostitute. Ephram Jennings grew up with Ruby and has been in love with her for years, despite her reputation. He too is shunned and ridiculed — because of his feelings for her. Their romance remains sad and painfully one-sided, regardless of Ephram's tender good intentions. Even his doting older sister, Celia, is embarrassed and ashamed by Ephram's behavior, and her deep, visceral hatred of Ruby goes back decades. Flashbacks reveal why Ruby chose a life of prostitution and why Celia hates her, as well as why Ephram struggles to get out from under his sister's influence. All of the family drama is set amid an ingrained culture of sexual exploitation of women and children, racial brutality, and the community's passive acceptance that these things are facts of life. This is a grim tale, well told, but there's no comfort in these pages — just tragedy and heartache." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Channeling the lyrical phantasmagoria of early Toni Morrison and the sexual and racial brutality of the 20th century east Texas, Cynthia Bond has created a moving and indelible portrait of a fallen woman....Bond traffics in extremely difficult subjects with a grace and bigheartedness that makes for an accomplished, enthralling read.” Thomas Chatterton Williams, San Francisco Chronicle
“A beautifully wrought ghost story, a love story, a survival story....[A] wonderful debut.” Angela Flournoy, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Ruby is a harrowing, hallucinatory novel, a love story and a ghost story about one woman’s attempt to escape the legacy of violence in a small southern town. Cynthia Bond writes with a dazzling poetry that’s part William Faulkner, part Toni Morrison, yet entirely her own. Ruby is encircled by shadows, but incandescent with light.” Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“From the first sentence, Cynthia Bond’s unforgettable debut novel, Ruby, took hold of me and it hasn’t let go. Cynthia Bond has written a book everyone should read, about the power of love to overcome even the darkest of histories.” Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot
“Bond proves to be a powerful literary force, a writer whose unflinching yet lyrical prose is reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s.” O, The Oprah Magazine
“In Ruby, Bond has created a heroine worthy of the great female protagonists of Toni Morrison…and Zora Neale Hurston…Bond’s style of writing is as magical as an East Texas sunrise.” Dallas Morning News
“If you love well-written historical fiction and multifaceted grown-up characters, put Ruby at the top of your beach bag....Bond delivers multiple goods with this one.” Essence
“[A] dark and redemptive beauty....Bond’s prose is evocative of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, paying homage to the greats of Southern gothic literature.” Library Journal (starred)
“[A] powerful, explosive novel. Bond immerses readers in a fully realized world, one scarred by virulent racism and perverted rituals but also redeemed by love.” Booklist (starred)
A haunting debut novel from gifted storyteller Cynthia Bond, Ruby brings to life a suffocating African-American community in East Texas — Liberty Township — where, nearly a century after emancipation, the residents are anything but free. When the glamorous Ruby Bell returns to her hometown after living in New York City, her sanity unravels as she faces the secrets of her past. All around her, the families from her youth spin gossip and shake their heads at her strange, wild behavior. At the root of her pain is a tale that no one dares to hear. The only one courageous enough to try is Ephram Jennings, a wounded soul himself who has loved Ruby all his life.
About the Author
Cynthia Bond has taught writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles for more than fifteen years. She attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, then moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A PEN/Rosenthal Fellow, Bond founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011. At present, Bond teaches therapeutic writing at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center. A native of East Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.
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