I have finally read an Oprah book pick before the title was selected for the honour! The reason I picked up Cynthia Bond’s Ruby is because it was nominated for the Flaherty Dunnan First Novel Award in 2014. I have read several of last year’s longlist actually, and they have all been wonderful.
Ruby has been most often compared to the ineffable Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Though this book hold’s its own, it is reminiscent of the ToMo classic in its subject matter— Deep South. Racism. Graphic violence, sexual exploitation and rape. Abuse of positions of power. Superstition. Love— as well as in its style— Dialect. Inventiveness. subtle choppiness.
But I have to say, the reason why I think readers who are interested in experiencing diverse, challenging and experimental writing styles in their reading lives need only delve in to page 14, where there is a brilliant scene that combines a dialogue between two people, with the lyrics of the hymn playing in the background, and the steady onomatopoeia of the task at hand. To understand the intended rhythm and cadence, I would suggest getting your hands on the audio version of that scene (or the book in its entirety if possible), as it is powerfully read by the author herself in an adrenaline filled whirlwind. I also find novels infused with dialect to be greatly enriched by hearing them out loud.
This lady keeps busy teaches writing to teens at an adolescent treatment centre, and I hope we hear more from her soon. I can’t wait to see what’s up next for Cynthia Bond.