My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Oprah’s Book Club! Hemingway award winner! Should be fantastic, right?
Well, it is very well written. Certainly it is a very in depth story of the life of a woman growing up poor in the rural midwest in the 60s and 70s. The characters are very well fleshed out for better and (mostly) worst and the main character does a fine job herself at connecting the dots from one generation to another and seeing how their lives were all intertwined. For that quality of the writing and character development I can rate this highly.
But, my god is this one hell of a depressing tale! You want to like Ruth – to root for her – but at every opportunity to redeem herself or to gain some clarity or to show that is NOT turning into her dreadful mother – she disappoints. Yet the picture you are given into her own mind is one of someone who wants to believe she is smart and wise and has the courage to be someone different. And then she isn’t. The tragic ending is quite inevitable. It’s only a manner of when and how. Her reaction to it all is again, a huge missed opportunity. In the end I was far more curious how her friend Daisy and her brother Matt’s tales continued. I gave up on Ruth entirely and no longer cared.
So, the title of this post is inspired by my conflict over not just this book, but also Wuthering Heights. For about the first half of WH, I was struggling to get through it. I didn’t feel connected to any characters and the overall atmosphere of it in my mind anyway was so dreary that I really had to talk myself into slogging through another chapter. At some point it did snag me though and thankfully through all that darkness, there was a ray of sunlight and hope at the end. It did redeem itself. But I can also understand why high schoolers think it is utter drudgery!
Then there was The Book of Ruth – seriously I can understand the other reviewers on Goodreads who just flat out skewered it and gave it only 1 or 2 stars. I’d like to give it 2.5 instead of 3, but that’s not an option.
I guess it all comes down to – what makes a book GOOD or flat out GREAT to you?
Personally I don’t think I should be looking at the cover and scowling at the idea of spending more time with the people and the story. My curiosity basically overcame my disgust not just with this last book, but also with Zombie. In the end I guess I feel good that I finished it – kind of like finishing a marathon I suppose, but I took no joy in it. And that’s the thing isn’t it? Good stories on TV, movies or in books should of course have their downs to make their ups have more impact. But really, there need to be moments of joy, don’t there? Otherwise why spend any time with it? Doesn’t real life have enough potential for tragedy and heartache and humiliation and anger and evil as it is?
Those of you who enjoy the darker tales – please share why. I really am interested in a different perspective on this.