There’s a lot I really love about Ruby: Bond’s beautiful poetic language for instance or the sharp way in which she pictures the characters. I loved her description of the deeply religious African-American women competing in church over who talked best in voices (only a very naive reader must not have noticed they were play-acting). The ever present racism is hit on wit razor-sharp precision, as is the superstition of the African-Americans in their small village somewhere in the ninety fifties – including the ones going to church every Sunday displaying their core piousness. What I do not love about Ruby is the fact that Bond describes all the torture, abuse and rape in detail. Whether this results in something one enjoys reading one might wonder. I for one did not care for the pages and pages filled to the brim with young African-American girls being raped in satanic masses by their African-American neighbours or white customers in brothels, or for wives being tortured and locked away in mental institutions for witnessing their raping husband or finally, for all the abuse and violence Bond describes. The only laudable comment one might give is that Bond does not differ between white or dark skinned perpetrators. I felt smothered by all the violence.
Main character Ruby’s abuse starts when she should have started going to primary school. At the age a normal girl would have gone to secondary school, she is being abused and raped in a brothel. As a result Ruby has become severely disturbed; the cruel treatment of her neighbours does not add to her mental sanity. A shrink would probably be able to explain what psychic ailments Ruby is suffering from, Bond, being a writer, turns Ruby’s body into a vessel, a chalice providing a shelter for the spirits of violently killed children. All of them being chased by the evil spirit of the preacher who started Ruby’s abuse. One can imagine her neighbours having their own opinion on Ruby drifting through the woods stark-naked, intimately embracing the ground and the trees.
Do not worry, at the end, everything turns out all right. Through the help of the one good man in the village the evil spirit is beaten and Ruby can start hoping for a better life. I can just imagine Oprah praising this quintessential American story of survival of an African-American strong woman. I can also picture Halle Berry accepting the Oscar for her courageous portrayal of Ruby (lots of walking around not looking your best). I sincerely hope the Baileys Womens Prize for Fiction selected Ruby for the fact that Bond does write extremely well and not for the fact that Ruby is such a courageous story about abuse and survival. I truly enjoyed those passages that almost bordered on poetry, I noticed myself reading faster and faster when the abuse was being described. I just do not go for this type of realism. Is your stomach sturdier than mine, do read Ruby. If you are as squeamish as me, just let it pass.