Friday, July 25, 2014

Cynthia Bond Exhales The Novel Ruby

Ruby by Cynthia Bond
When 30-year-old Ruby Bell returns to her hometown in East Texas, she unexpectedly resurrects all the ghosts and demons of her childhood. There, in Liberty, townsfolk cling to a sheltered social order and existence, the wounds of racism and slavery remain divisive and unhealed, and a small group of otherwise righteous men still sneak off into the woods to practice the darker arts of their ancestries.

Although considerably stronger than when she left, the confrontation of her past turns out to be too much for her. And as the memories come flooding back, Ruby is left incapable of distinguishing the fantasy from reality or the  past from the present. No one is wiling to help her. If anything, the town seems poised to destroy her for having the audacity to escape to New York City in the 1950s.

There is one exception. Ephram Jennings still remembers Ruby as the young and beautiful girl who stole his heart. He alone becomes determined to protect her from a town that wants to destroy her.

Ruby is a love story stretched taut over a story of survival.

Ruby is not for the feint of heart as it rumbles along to tell a transfixing and cruel tale. Even if the primary protagonist is more Jennings than Ruby, the story belongs to her. Whereas he is the son of a backwoods preacher and seemingly the only person in the all-black town of Liberty to have retained a sense of naivety and nobility, she is the survivor of explicit and inhuman child abuse.

As a result, he is only one who is unwilling to shun Ruby, and is eventually compelled to save her despite placing himself at great risk. Most townsfolk see this newfound relationship as the work of the devil despite a seemingly endless parade of people who are anxious to exploit her abuse.

East Texas
As the antagonists in the novel are larger than any one individual, Ruby and Ephram must face the torturous personal experiences of her past, the threats of physical and mental abuse in the present, and the ever-present essence of an ancient and destructive spiritual force that has set its sights on her soul. These three painful threads are then woven together so tightly that it is often difficult to feel where one ends and another begins.

For the most part, author Cynthia Bond tackles the difficult subject matter especially well. The novel is particularly powerful and devastating in that the victims aren't seen as worthy of being saved but rather deserve to be punished and exploited. In making it so, Bond captures the internal conflict that many survivors have a difficult time expressing and makes it real. It manifests itself in physical abuse, mental ignorance, and a spiritual battle between lost souls and the Dybou (devil).

Where the novel sometimes slips away is in its craft. While Bond is adept at developing well-drawn characters and has a flair for descriptive writing, she allows the exceedingly dark storyline to manage her. It plods along, making the same point over and over until the rhythm of it is circular and hollow.

A few more graphs about author Cynthia Bond. 

Cynthia Bond
There is an unmistakable authenticity that Cynthia Bond brings to her book. Her own history of abuse informed the novel as did meeting an amazing woman who had suffered unimaginable degrees of abuse during recovery. Later, Bond began to teach writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles and discovered many survivors have the same or similar stories much like some family members have similar stories related to racism and the harshness of small town life.

Her mother inspired Liberty, having grown up in a small, all-black town in East Texas. And as Bond and her sister grew older, her mother would tell them stories that revolved around the scars of her body. They began to think of them as chapters.

Bond attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and then moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She then founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011 after becoming a PEN Rosenthal Fellow. At present, she teaches therapeutic writing at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center.

Ruby By Cynthia Bond Breaks 3.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While the novel is worth the read (despite its more explicit content), it's cumbersome in that Jennings is the only redeeming character and the primary protagonist in a story that doesn't belong to him. The mechanism might help us understand helplessness, but it doesn't necessarily endear Ruby to readers.

Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond can be found on Amazon. The novel is also available for iBooks and can be downloaded as an audiobook on iTunes. Bond narrates her own novel.