This book was a very insightful account of a young woman who'd been "different" all her life. Made to feel unworthy and unwanted by her mother--especially when compared to her accomplished younger brother--Ruth embarks on life after high school at a dreary job in a dreary town. Her life is changed in many ways--not all positive-- when she meets, marries, and has a child with Ruby, an immature, impulsive boy in a man's guise. A tragic series of events changes Ruth's life forever and, it seems, puts her on a better path after all.
Our narrator tells a simple yet emotionally moving tale of a life filled with quiet desperation and infinite dreams. I was moved enough to write a review, which I never do. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys challenging their perception of what defines a normal family.
None are so blind as those who do not wish to see. Ruth, the unreliable narrator of this sad tale, lives this maxim throughout her life. "The book of Ruth" is an uncomfortable reminder of how we can be blind when we want something bad enough'even if that thing is an unwise choice. With success, Jane Hamilton places the reader in the mind of a disturbed young woman; somehow Hamilton creates sympathy for the undesirable characters in this novel. Definitely a triumph for the author's first book.
I worked in a group home for mentally retarded men while I attended college. There is (was) a very large mental institution in my hometown that had mainstreamed most of it's almost 15,000 residents (in it's hey day) back in to the community. There were multiple group homes for men and women and I often supervised parties and dates for the clients. This book brought all of this back to me. Ruth and Ruby are both fairly high functioning retarded people. This relationship got out of hand mainly from May's iron-fisted way of dealing with her daughter and her constant comparison of her with her genius son Matt. There were parts of their relationship that I thought were beautiful, but most of it was like the beauty of the vibrant patterns on a rattlesnake's back; beautiful but dangerous. This book brought all the sadness back to me that I felt watching people with little or no control of their life attempt to have a relationship.
This was certainly a worthwhile book to read and I would recommend it to anyone.
Throughout this book, the narrator hints at a big event. She teases it, dances around it, and keeps us wondering. But personally, I found the "event" unsurprising, over-written, and frankly, disappointing. If you like a straightforward read, skip over "The Book of Ruth."
Author Jane Hamilton leads us through the arid life of Ruth Grey, who extracts what small pleasures and graces she can from a tiny Illinois town and the broken people who inhabit it. Ruth's prime tormentor is her mother May, whose husband died in World War II and took her future with him. More poor familial luck has given Ruth a brother who is a math prodigy; Matt sucks up any stray attention like a black hole. Ruth is left to survive on her own resources, which are meager. She struggles along, subsisting on crumbs of affection meted out by her Aunt Sid and, later, her screwed-up husband Ruby. Hamilton has perfect pitch. So perfect that you wince with pain for confused but fundamentally good Ruth as she walks a dead-end path.
Great read...a peek inside the world of the poor,and possibly mildly retarded Ruth. Interesting look at her longings for a better life yet also her acceptance of the life she had. The author really lets you look through Ruths eyes as she grows up with a critical, distant mother.Your heart will ache for a better life for poor Ruth, and it will swell with hope from her aunt that truly cares. Definitely worth reading.
I could not stop thinking about this book long after I finished it. This author is an incredibly gifted writer. The descriptions are bold and vivid. Though it is a story of devastation and pain, it is richly told. Ruth, a small town girl, is raised by a woman who is bitter about life. They coexist without closeness. Ruth's life is sheltered and drab. Because of her inexperience and ignorance, she meets a mentally ill man and falls in love. She does not see he is dangerous until he brings forth immense suffering and loss. Ruth finds strength and the courage to go on (as she had in childhood) through the love and support of an estranged aunt.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars because I really didn't love it. This book was chosen for my book club so I had to read it. I think if it wasn't for my club I wouldn't have finished it. Despite not enjoying the book we did have quite a good conversation about this book. It brought about a lot of good conversation and discussion. The characters were complex and well-developed in my opinion, but they were overall very sad folks. You kept waiting for things to get better for them. I felt like the entire book I spent "waiting" for something to happen that never really did. Without giving too much away, there was a climatic moment in the book that was dramatic and shocking. I suppose it is worth it to read it to get to this part. It's at the very end though. It is worht a read if you like to analyze different people's personalities and what makes them how they are. That was mostly what our discussion was about, just talking about why these people were the way that they were.
This book, The book of Ruth, was difficult to read and finsh. It depressed me, and made no sense. I kept reading hoping it would get better, but it never did. Such high praise from others, but it just left me, wondering why did I bother.
Emotional story about an ordinary girl who has an exceptional brother who goes off to college, leaving her alone with her hateful mother to work at a dry cleaners in a crappy, going-nowhere small town. From the story and how Ruth "tells" it you realize how her naivete' and hopefulness is what could potentially be her downfall. She gets hooked up with a loser, has a baby, and you are just frustrated for her hanging on to the hope that things will turn around for her. Makes you take a look at your own family and life, in general, with a different perspective and attitude.
First off, everyone seems to have a fairly good opinion of this book. My opinion differs a bit, as I am sure my personality differs as well.
This book is viewed as an inspiring tale of a womans survival of a unhappy childhood and a survivor of a vicious attack.
I do not get insprired by one mearly surviving the world. I am inspired by people who not only survive the world, but make it a better place in some way or another. Which also for future readers is a difference that will impact the enjoyment of this book. Lots of reviews mention 'hope' as a theme, but I had yet to be convinced that Ruth actually possesed any. If you are inspired by someone bearing through their circumstances (poverty and teasing) and not dying as a result of a muderous attack, than you may enjoy the book a lot more than I did.
(*Caution SPOILER*)The main character, Ruth, lements her husband incarciration (he is the attacker) and neglects her child as a result of the unfortunate event. She neither rallies to make a better life for her and her child or better the situation by moving on (emotionally speaking) regarding her relationship with her abusive husband. The ending really left me shaking my head and aware this must have been a first novel for the writer.
The Book of Ruth was a disappointment for me, I think that had the book reviews been a little more honest as to the level of skill the writer used and about the content of the book, I wouldn't have been so disappointed. I would have still been uninspired however. Quite frankly, I felt is was a waste of time, but of course it was required reading form my literature course so I had no choice.
I absolutely loved the story that main character Ruth tells about her pathetic family in rural Illinois, I can't believe this was the author Jane Hamilton's first novel, it's brilliant and made me laugh and gasp in horror too. Ruth's mother May had a hard life - her first husband and love of her life was killed at war, her brilliant son Matt never returned her love, her second husband abandoned her, she's alienated her entire family, and as far as she's concerned her daughter Ruth can't do anything right. Ruth grows up trying and failing to please her mother; and settles on Ruby, the first man to pay her the slightest attention. Ruby, like everybody else in this book, is damaged; also he can't keep a job or his clarity, even after they have their baby Justin. Ruth and Ruby together are completely headed towards catastrophe but she tells the story with such love and conviction it's never difficult to read at any point... eventually it all comes to a shocking head, and then she just continues on telling it until I'm sad the book ends.
Well written but depressing. From the back cover:
- "A sly and wistful, if harrowing, human comedy. Hamilton is a new and original voice in fiction and one well worth listening to."
Boston Sunday Globe
- "Ms. Hamilton gives Ruth a humble dignity and allows her hope - but it's not a heavenly hope. It's a common one, caked with mud and held with gritted teeth. And it's probably the only one that's worth reading about." New York Times Book Review
- "Hamilton's story builds to a shocking crescendo. Her small-town characters are as appealingly offbeat and brushed with grace as any found in Alice Hoffman's or Anne Tyler's novels." Glamour
- "Jame Hamilton's novel is authentically Dickensian...The real achivement of this first novel is not so much the blackness as the suggestion of resilience. At the end, Ruth begins to put together her shattered body, pirit and life. Her words are awkward, as they have been all along, but suddenly and unexpectedly they shine." Los Angeles Times
- "A disturbing and beautiful book." Hilma Wolitzer
Ruth narrates the story of her life in a plaintive, wistful voice, telling of life in a small town with a mother who clearly prefers her brother over her, and evenutually a husband who marches to the beat of his own drum. I enjoyed this Dickins-like novel which shaped intensely human characters and built to a shocking pinnacle leaving the reader in disbelief.
"This is the story of Ruth. It is the story of her struggles, her fears and anxieties, her victories and failures but, ultimately, it is the story of her growth. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon Ruth emerges from her trials stronger and more beautiful than she ever believed she could be.
I love this story. Just reading it is an affirmation of the human spirit. My own life has been a thousand times easier than Ruth's and yet Jane Hamilton weaves her tail so skillfully that I still could see bits of myself in poor Ruth. And in the end, after seeing how Ruth overcame so much, I knew for sure that I could take on the world and win. Damn right! One hand tied behind my back.
Go Ruth! And go Jane Hamilton! Books like this don't come along too often and when they do they should be mandatory reading by order of the king of the universe. " amazon review
This book started off slowly for me. I was also uncomfortable with the characters' life situation. The characters and their lives are unpleasant but they are beautifully written. The book remindes me of how often we write people off as ignorant, ugly, unsalvageable--when what separates us from them is often an accident of birth. I felt hopeful for Ruth at the end and the possibility that her sons will escape her fate. A must read, if for no other reason than to get in touch with your own prejudices.
Winner of the Pen/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award. "The real achievement of this novel is not so much the blackness as the suggestion of resilience. At the end, Ruth begins to put together her shattered body, spirit and life. Her words are awkward, as they have been all along, but suddenly and unexpectedly they shing." LOS ANGELES TIMES
This book is a seemingly simple narrative, from a seemingly simple perspective that is filled with emotion and complex characters. Ruth offers insights into a life without all the extras. She shows through reflection how emotions can be twisted and shaped. This was a unique read but still interesting.
Funny, harrowing, compassionate, harsh, totally unglamorous..this book is original, well-written and compelling. Ruth is a most unlikely heroine, an innocent in a world on the edge of nightmare, with a totally unique way of viewing the world. You will not easily forget her.
I listened to this book when I was first getting into audiobooks several years ago. When I finished listening I wrote my first ever "fan letter". Mare Winningham is brilliant as the narrator. She doesn't sound as though she's reading, per se. As I listened to the book while commuting to work, I pictured Ruth sitting in passenger seat just telling me her story. I've listened to many, many books since then and no other reader has come close to Ms. Winningham's performance. There is another audio version of this book, with a different narrator. If you're interested in listening, be sure to get the version read by Mare Winningham.
This book was horrible in the beginning. It was boring and hard to follow. The middle and ending were better, but still hard to follow. This is the first and probably last book that I will read by Jane Hamilton.
The first novel of Jane Hamilton (author of A Map of the World). A sly, wistful, human comedy of the story of Ruth as she begins to put together her shattered body, spirit and life. Very heart-warming.
I love Jane Hamilton and I absolutely loved this book. Richly developed characters & very hard to put down. AND there's a surprise ending! I'm having a hard time letting it go so if you take it please love it as much as I did.
This is both a disturbing an dbeautiful book. the real achievement of this novel is not so much the blackness as the suggestion of resilience. At the end, Ruth begins to put together her shattered body, spirit, and life. We should all be this resilient. Wonderful bookok
This was a very strange book. Although the story teller is gifted in telling the details of the story and making you feel that you are there with the main characters, you have this ominous feeling that something bad will happen. You hope that the life of the main character will change for the best. I was hooked to the story but I did not care for the ending, without this being a spoiler. Well written but sad.
This is an excellent read, haunting in its hard luck, pathetic with meaness. A real page-turner, and yet, for most of the book, I liked only one character, and a minor one at that. I suppose it has its redemptive ending, or so I've read, but I don't see it. It is a story of losers who stay lost.
Really good, poignant story of a girl from a disadvantaged background who tries to make the best of life, but is victim to her disfunctional family and life situation. Intelligently written, unexpected story. Book was winner of prestigious Pen/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award.
Although this was a quick read for me it some how felt slow, sluggish to me. I was surprised to find out halfway through that the setting was 1977, it seemed so much older to me, maybe late 40's or 50's. But the main character Ruth, she was so complicated to me. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her....ugh girl, wake up! What are you doing? But in the end I saw how fragile she was, how the love within her was crushed and yet she still carried on.
Sad book about Ruth, living in a dysfunctional family. Matt, her older brother gets all the attention and love while Ruth is criticized. Ruth thinks she finally gets her chance in life by meeting Ruby, a special needs man. Their daily day to day life, that is about 3/4 of the book, give a special insight into their happiness and sorrows. The ending is shocking. This is not a happy book. It's not a love story with a happy ending. It is a book of reality, of the way some people live their lives. A book you will remember.
Oprah Book Club® Selection, November 1996: The Book of Ruth is a virtuoso performance and that's precisely why it can be excruciating to read. Author Jane Hamilton leads us through the arid life of Ruth Grey, who extracts what small pleasures and graces she can from a tiny Illinois town and the broken people who inhabit it. Ruth's prime tormentor is her mother May, whose husband died in World War II and took her future with him. More poor familial luck has given Ruth a brother who is a math prodigy; Matt sucks up any stray attention like a black hole. Ruth is left to survive on her own resources, which are meager. She struggles along, subsisting on crumbs of affection meted out by her Aunt Sid and, later, her screwed-up husband Ruby. Hamilton has perfect pitch. So perfect that you wince with pain for confused but fundamentally good Ruth as she walks a dead-end path. The book ends with the prospect of redemption, thank goodness--but the tale is nevertheless much more bitter than sweet.
I noticed this book on my shelf a few weeks ago and couldn't remember if I had read it or not, so I picked it up. I hadn't read it, and reading it now was one of those amazing reading experiences where one picks up the exact right book at the exact right time and it ring in one's head like a bell that has been struck. Now that I am done, I wish I hadn't read it so I could do that again. I can't believe this book is almost 30 years old, I can't believe it was a first novel, I can't believe I accidentally saved it for myself this whole time. Recommended.
This is a paperback. Winner of the Pen/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award. "Ms Hamilton gives Ruth a humble dignity and allows her hope - but it's not a heavenly hope. It's a common one, caked with mud and held with gritted teeth. And it's probably the only kind that's worth reading about." NY Times Book Review
from the back cover; Hamilton's story builds to a shocking crescendo. Her small-town characters are as appealingly offbeat and brushed with grace as any found in Alice Hoffman's or Anne Tyler's novels.
Ms. Hamilton gives Ruth a humble dignity and allows her hope-but it's not a heavenly hope. It's a common one-caked with mud and held with gritted teeth. Ane it's probably the only kind that's worth reading about....New York Times Book Review