Monday, February 7, 2011

The Book of Ruth/review

One problem or benefit I receive from reading books is that while in the book I tend to think and even talk like the main character or narrator. I don't know how atypical this is, but it happens on a regular basis as long as I become immersed in the book.

It is a benefit most of the time, but not most recently. I read a very good but extraordinarily depressing novel called The Book of Ruth. It is by the same woman, Jane Hamilton, who wrote A Map of the World which is an excellent novel that was made into a good movie as well. The Book of Ruth depicts life for a young woman named Ruth who marries a young man named Ruby and lives in poverty with her bitter mother named May. I wanted to finish the book at least in part to get myself out of this drafty house in Illinois with a misanthrope for a mother and a going nowhere spouse.

Hamilton has the characters spot on in so many scenes that a reader, or at least I, marvels at how clearly, and in the case of the three main characters, multidimensionally she draws the characters. I think those people who have lived lives in poverty with no way out, might find the book a little too close to home for comfort. This was not my upbringing so I just found the book to be so sad that I wanted to urge Ruth to somehow scram and take me out of there with her.

If you would prefer not to be depressed for the days it will take you to read this 328 page book, I will nutshell the essence of it by including an excerpt that appears on page 316. The narrator, Ruth, says that she has given up on talking with the reverend about her travails, "there is no use explaining that you have to learn where your pain is. You have to burrow down and find the wound, and if the burden of it is too terrible to shoulder you have to shout it out; you have to shout for help. My trust, even down in that dark place I carry, is that some person will come running. And then finally the way through grief is grieving. There is nothing like lying down to bawl and choke, and then rolling over so the tears can drip out of your ears..."

A barrel of laughs this book was not.

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