The Book of Ruth
by Jane Hamilton
Ruth lives in a small town with her equally small-minded mother. Her brilliant brother gets out as soon as he graduates from high school, but Ruth seems content to settle into an unhappy oblivion of work at a dry cleaner. In theory Ruth is an interesting character because she is so ordinary. She’s not that smart or pretty or ambitious. She is an average person, one that you meet every day.
The problem in that in her ordinariness there doesn’t seem to be anything new to be said about her. She settles quickly for whatever life hands her, whether it’s a job where her mom works or the first man who expresses and interest in her. Instead of trying to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing mother, she continues to live with her even after she’s married.
I have an incredibly hard time relating to and respecting people like Ruth. She has an awful life, one that she continually complains about, but she does nothing to improve it. I just want to shake her and yell, “You can do better!” She marries Ruby, a man who is basically still a child. He’s lazy and spoiled. He forces himself upon her on their first date, but she decides that’s okay and agrees that taking care of him is her new second job.
The two most interesting characters in my opinion are Ruth’s brother and her aunt, both of whom always remain on the periphery. Both are villainized in some ways, particularly her brother, for working to improve their lives. By the end of the book I just wanted to be finished with all of the horrible characters I’d met.
BOTTOM LINE: I couldn’t stand it. I kept waiting for it to get better or for some lesson to be learned, but it never happened. I stuck with it because it was a book for my book club and I always read those all the way though so I can discuss them.