Wow does not even begin to cover this book! Cynthia Bond is a Storyteller of the highest degree. She softly invites you to take a seat next to her so she can tell you something and gives you a taste of her tale. You sit down and she slowly wraps a blanket of words about your shoulders, the sounds entering your flesh and mixing with your blood to travel to your heart. Her lips busy speaking the words to guide more threads into the pattern. She is not just telling you the story, she is making the story a part of your very soul. The primal word thoughts of Ruby draw forth forgotten memories that live in all of us. Magical words, desperate words, joyful words and painful words.
Ruby is the story of a young woman, a victim of abuse her entire life, given over to a brothel where the black girls are sold and rented for the men to do any dark intents to. She learns to survive by internally fracturing, leaving her body to be used in whatever way their sick desires lead while she lets her mind wander. When the men take her in the streets or gutters or behind the store counters, she retreats, merging with her environment, the nearby trees, rocks, streams. She speaks with the ghosts of the children lost to abuse, drawing them to her and inside her to protect them.
Ephram sees her in a way no one else ever has. He is untroubled by her past, understands the things she does are the only way she has ever known how to survive. Ephram’s father was the Reverend, a harsh cruel and abusive man that had dark secrets. Found hanging from a tree when Ephram was still young, Ephram was raised by his sister Celia. He is docile and obedient to Celia until he meets Ruby again.
Ruby is told in scattered time frames. The memories of the past merging into the events of the present. Ephram and Ruby are introduced as children when they visit a Voodooein who sends them both off with poppets. They don’t meet again till years later when Ephram sees Ruby laying in a puddle of mud in the gutter in town as the townspeople make fun of her. He becomes enraptured with her and follows her quietly home where he begins to care for her as no one ever has, beginning with cleaning the filth and squalor of her home as well as her body, restoring her to the beauty that she is.
Ruby is a hard book to categorize. Its a love story, sort of. Its a ghost story, but not like most ghost stories. Its about the supernatural, magic, religions, superstitions, family, prejudice, abuse. Its about just about everything that is ugly in humanity and everything that is beautiful in it. Its about how nothing and no one are how they really appear to be, how things are more complex than they seem at the surface and how the complex can be viewed in simpler terms as well. Its the paradox that life is, was and probably always will be told in imagery that emblazons your mind, words that ring through your ears and invades every sense with its magnificence and subtleties.
I keep very few novels on my shelves after reading them nowadays. Only those whose words I know I want to revisit again and again. There are not many that I feel that way about. Cynthia Bond has become one of those few authors whose pages will find a permanent place on a shelf. Her book, I doled out in small doses, savoring the words, for she is a master with them. This is a book where you wish there were extra credit stars or some way to mark it as a truly exceptional work. Alas, you are left with only giving it the highest marks that are in a standard rating.
The book jacket says Ms. Bond teaches writing to street people. That is enough to make you want to pack up and move out into her streets to beg to sit for her classes.
June 15, 2015