Cynthia Bond's lush, poetic debut novel, Ruby, explores memory, racism, community and the resilience of the human spirit--no small task--by creating a sort of dream in which human kindness and cruelty are shown as they are: inextricable.

The once beautiful--and literally haunted--Ruby Bell, who fled her Texas town and her demons in the 1950s, returned some years later, her tenuous grasp on sanity slipping away soon after. She became the locus for all the town's fear and shame. For all, that is, but Ephram Jennings.

Ephram remembers her as the girl he has never stopped loving, and asks his sister to make one of her legendary "white lay angel" cakes; then, dressed in his Sunday best, he tries to carry it through the woods to Ruby's house, a place of nightmare and squalor. It is a hero's journey, fraught with danger and trial. He falls and tears his clothes, fends off questions from passersby, is harassed by the law. With each obstacle, we learn a little more about the town, Ruby and Ephram's connection to her.

Cynthia Bond renders darkness and terror, and love and kindness, with exceptional grace and insight. This is an unusual, rare and beautiful novel that is meant to be experienced as much as read. --Debra Ginsberg, author

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