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"Ruby" by Cynthia Bond

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Stuck between various versions of hell on earth, the eponymous Ruby of Cynthia Bond’s novel is victimized shockingly early in life by the adult men and women of her world, and driven mad. Ruby the novel overflows with evil voodoo spirits, and by Christian women who compete with each other in self-righteousness.

In a backwater colored township (the author’s description) in East Texas, a beleaguering series of vicious men and women subject Ruby to every depredation: she’s sold into prostitution incredibly young, taught to expect that rape and abuse are her just due. This perverts her into something with no sense of self, other than an automaton who divorces her emotions from her life. Small wonder. It’s also no surprise that Ruby develops a schizophrenic belief in ghost children – dozens, maybe hundreds of them, which apparently correspond to injuries and disappointments in her hellish life.

The author makes the ongoing point about ordinary men being potential rapists when caught under certain influences, and in one pivotal scene puts a crowd of them under a kind of possessive black-magic trance, but most of the men
who take advantage of and abuse Ruby are clear-eyed enough. Ms. Bond introduces Ephram, the only man in the world who wishes Ruby well, and the Christians and evil haints do battle for his and Ruby’s souls.

As an emblem and reminder of what horrid lives victimized women and boys lead, this book succeeds with a somewhat unartful repetition, with some scenes quite effective. As a study in human emotion and a traumatized person’s attempt to cope with a nightmare existence, this story feels arbitrary and forced together, with responses not fully warranted by events, even supernatural events.

Not recommended.
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