by Jane Hamilton
I know we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I almost judged this book by its “recommender”. This sounded intriguing but then I noticed it was one of Oprah’s book club choices. Ughhh. I admit publicly that I am that one person in America who is not an Oprah fan. The fact she told the world to read this book was almost the death knell on me reading it. But, since this is my year to be opposite Sue and do new things, I resisted my normal urge and started to read. And I read, and read. I hate to admit it, but Oprah was right about this one.
Ruth is in many ways me. She came from a difficult childhood; trapped in a world where the likelihood of escaping and finding normalcy and happiness was very small. Her loving father abandoned the family leaving Ruth and brother Matt in the hands of an incapable, failing mom. She was probably normal in intelligence, but compared to her genius brother who could do no wrong, and without benefit of a good parent or mentor, she is seen as below average. Coming from a small town, dysfunctional family and in need of being loved, she fell into a marriage with the wrong man, Ruby. Despite his obvious inadequacies, Ruth manages to find her first taste of love and completeness.
Poverty, however, requires that she and her new husband must live with her tragically domineering mother and this is the story of those three adults and how the world in which they live imprisons them.
Jane Hamilton writes in prose which makes the reader pause to absorb. I kept finding myself marking passages which resonated within me and made me think of my own childhood. If Ruth is considered of normal ability, Ruby definitely had severe mental challenges. Concentrating, problem solving, motivation – all beyond his reach. Ruby, however, had a spirit of innocence where his world would have been filled with joy had mother in law not continually tried to emasculate him.
Three people in a marriage is hard, but the addition of a fourth, a baby for Ruth and Ruby, brought this group together and with a purpose. Hamilton does an excellent job reminding readers who are parents of the magic of children. “With a baby you have to look at the world as if someone has just given you a pair of eyes for the first time.” The parts of the book which dealt with impending parenthood and those early months will fill your heart.
I am glad I didn’t let Oprah’s name keep me from opening the cover of this book. I not only recommend “The Book of Ruth” but have given it a place on the bookshelf for a future read-again.