Book Review: The Book of Ruth
Posted May 6, 2013on:
The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton, Anchor Books, 1998, 328 pp.
I needed to escape into a good novel after a rough few weeks of ministry. The Book of Ruth was simply handy, and it fit the bill. While it didn’t take me in and away to another world, it did offer interesting characters, a good story and lovely writing.
The novel tells the story of Ruth’s life, from her perspective. She grows up poor in a small town, with her gifted younger brother Matt and her mother May’s hate and abuse. She responded with equal abuse toward her brother, and believed herself always to be unlovable, unteachable, and slow. Ruth tells the story of the few adults that showed her kindness and affection as a child–her Aunt Sid; Miss Finch, the blind woman down the street she helps after school; a teacher. After she graduates from high school, she goes to work at the local dry cleaners, and becomes the star of the bowling team.
Then she meets Ruby, a drifter with problems of his own, and falls in love. They marry, but remain living at home with the angry May. Tensions grow, especially when Ruth gives birth to her first child. The three broken people manage to bump along until one day the anger gets to be too much for them, with tragic consequences.
This is one of those stories where none of the characters (including Ruth) are particularly likable, but the author manages to make all of them sympathetic. I did not find it gripping or even moving, but it was an interesting read.