|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 328 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: August 2010
Finished Date: August 2010
Where From: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: I had previously read Jane Hamilton’s A Map of the World and was very taken with her writing. I heard even more acclaim for this novel & wanted to read it.
Summary: Naïve, sweet-natured Ruth’s unstable relationship with her tough, overbearing mother May is further stressed when she falls in love with the charming, unemployed, and intellectually delayed Ruby, clinging desperately to the hope of being happily free together.
The novel begins on a tone of sweetness that initially matches the rural town of Honey Creek in which it is set. Hamilton introduces the titular character as a romantic, misunderstood young girl who sees the best in people, despite the struggling relationship she has with her mother, May, who is haunted by the death of her true love, the reckless abandonment of her children’s father Elmer, and the favouritism she has for her gifted, son, Matt, who escapes the family’s stranglehold long before Ruth realizes the potential beyond it.
At first, Ruth is ambitious, forming a letter-writing relationship with her mom’s estranged sister Aunt Sid and makes friends with the wild, untamed Daisy, whose mother Dee Dee takes turns crying on May’s shoulder. Then Ruby enters the picture and soon Ruth’s affections overtake her potential. I found myself happy for her despite Ruby’s lack of success, but kept thinking in the back of my mind that both these kids ought to be back in school making something of themselves. What stands in the way of that happening is that May is raising her daughter and not the more educated, successful Aunt Sid. May’s unhappiness causes her grief in raising Ruth beyond her own means and sees her daughter’s entire future before it happens.
What she doesn’t see is the sudden swerve of a climax that takes the last 40 pages to occur and be dealt with, and the prior 250+ pages to build the tension that acclimates to this one event. It sounds like a setup (“I have to read that much just for 1 big thing to happen?”), but the prior events are individually worth reading, together creating a tower more unstable than Pisa.
Rank: (A)- Highly recommend