Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Saving Ruby King

  Saving Ruby King
Author:  Catherine Adel West
Publication Information:  Park Row. 2020. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0778305090 / 978-0778305095

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Ruby wants more than I can give her, but that's how children are."

Favorite Quote:  "'Rebellion even in its smallest forms can eventually birth great change. With change comes hope."

Trigger warning:  This book includes the topics of abuse, murder, violence, domestic violence, and incest.

Southside Chicago. A black community. A church. Two families. Two girls. Ruby and Layla. Best friends.

A murder. An investigation. A community and the police.

This book has the makings of a strong and powerful statement about issues being discussed in the headlines these days. It has the makings of an emotional story of family, loss, and friendship. It has the setup for strong yet vulnerable characters that you want to protect and cheer.

The book does all of that to some extent. However, the telling of the story gets in the way of the story itself, and I find myself lost.

The story begins about two friends - Ruby and Layla. Ruby's mother is murdered, and Ruby is in jeopardy from her abusive father. Layla is the pastor's daughter, but her family has skeletons of its own. The book tries to tell this story from multiple perspectives, past and present. Unfortunately, unless I pay really close attention to the chapter titles and the dates, I find myself lost as to the time frame.

The narrators themselves are interesting for not all are people. There is Ruby, of course and Layla. There are Jackson and Lebanon. Finally, there is Calvary Hope Christian Church. That's right. The church building is a narrator of the story for much happens within those four walls. This is literally a case of "if the walls could talk." Here, the wall not only talk but offer commentary and emotion on the objective events taking place. In addition, there are main characters other than the four human narrators whose stories unfurl within those walls. It's a lot to keep straight.

The connections between the past and the present are not fully explained until the end so it becomes challenging to see the significance of certain names and certain events. In some ways, this book would be easier to read if I had read the ending first. In fact, once the connections are clear, I find myself flipping back through the book to follow the story forward again with the understanding of how the characters and events connect.

This book's attempt to incorporate the issues of racism and the sometimes challenging relationship between the police and the black community also seems out of reach. These issues are sadly very real and need to be talked about and addressed. Unfortunately, in this story, the incorporation of that conversation seems forced and out of place. This is not the story of the investigations into two deaths. It is about the individuals, the families, and the personal relationships that lead to those deaths. Thus, the conversation of racism appears to depict the stereotypes rather than make a real impact.

This book was truly about the generational impact of abuse and how abuse travels through time, turning the abused into the abuser. The story was just told in a nonlinear, noncontiguous way such that the point isn't clear until well into the book. The issues taken up in this book are important, relevant, and considerable. Unfortunately, for most of the book, the emotions and the grasp of those issues seems just out of reach.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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