Ephram could not help but think of Ruby. She entered him like a taste at the back of his throat—the memory of his mama’s peach cobbler.Ruby, Cynthia Bond. Book 3 Ch. 23.
Ruby by Cynthia Bond, a tale that, at most times, seamlessly weaves fiction and bits of non-fiction throughout most of the story. My daddy recommended this book to me and I later found out, after I finished the book, he had never read it!
So let me preface that this story is not for the faint of heart. I would say I’m one of those. This book is 330 pages of gut wrenching and traumatizing descriptions, including rape. There’s your tigger warning.
The titular character, Ruby Bell, is a mystical, perpetually tormented woman. She has a knack for dealing with the many spirits that inhabit the small East Texas town of Liberty. Liberty is an all Black town with a gossipy, shady community.
Ephram Jennings is a quiet man. He’s Ruby’s childhood friend and only man accepting of her as a person. From their days spent together as children in Liberty to the time of Ruby’s return from New York later in their adulthood, Ephram always remembers her as the rest of Liberty shuns her, viewing her in the worst light. Why? Because of her sexual history.
Around Liberty, Ruby is basically seen as the town whore. This is made clear throughout the book. Even as a child, she was blamed for the actions of grown men and betrayed by those viewed as the most sanctimonious in the small town. As a child, the town’s reverend shipped her off to “The Friend’s Club.” Mm-hm.
Ruby goes to New York City in search of pieces of her mother and comes back to Liberty a few times over the next decade or so. Upon her fourth return, Ephram finally has the courage to approach her once again. Expecting the same routine, she readily lifts up her skirt for him, but he rejects her invitation because he really just wants to do something nice for her. Not like other guys.
Ruby is able to communicate and somewhat tame gentle spirits and is in constant conflict with sometihing called a Dybou. It’s crazy. Sometimes she wrestles with these entities in the witness of others, hence the community reputation that she is insane. But you cant help but sympathize with her at times.
So my issue with this book is the darker topics which include: evil spirits, child prostitution, lots of rape, the enabling of questionable rituals in the woods, and the possession of the protagonist(?), to name a few things. Chapter 12 is a good place to start, if you’re curious for some examples.
It just made me uneasy from beginning to end. It’s a difficult read, for sure, especially I you are as sensitive and visual as me. I felt everything I was reading and it stuck with me for a good 2 months. I was feeling violated (vicariously through Ephram’s and Ruby’s plights) and I didn’t like it. Yet I kept reading. It was wild.
There were, however, a few things I liked about this book. I liked that it was set in Texas, more so, a small black town. I liked the descriptions and character development. It is well written, and Bond’s writing style is certainly something. I mean that in a positive way.
Would I recommend Ruby? Um, no. Overall, I’d give it 2.5/5 stars.