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The Book of Ruth: A Novel [Paperback]

Jane Hamilton
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 1989 Oprah's Book Club
Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award  for best first novel, this exquisite book  confronts real-life issues of alienation and violence  from which the author creates a stunning testament  to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and  love.

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From Amazon

Oprah Book Club® Selection, November 1996: The Book of Ruth is a virtuoso performance and that's precisely why it can be excruciating to read. Author Jane Hamilton leads us through the arid life of Ruth Grey, who extracts what small pleasures and graces she can from a tiny Illinois town and the broken people who inhabit it. Ruth's prime tormentor is her mother May, whose husband died in World War II and took her future with him. More poor familial luck has given Ruth a brother who is a math prodigy; Matt sucks up any stray attention like a black hole. Ruth is left to survive on her own resources, which are meager. She struggles along, subsisting on crumbs of affection meted out by her Aunt Sid and, later, her screwed-up husband Ruby. Hamilton has perfect pitch. So perfect that you wince with pain for confused but fundamentally good Ruth as she walks a dead-end path. The book ends with the prospect of redemption, thank goodness--but the tale is nevertheless much more bitter than sweet.

From Publishers Weekly

"In her first novel, Hamilton takes on a challenge too large for her talents," said PW of this tale about a Midwestern woman who is loyal to her wounded and wounding family. "Hamilton evokes Ruth's character marvelously, but others as seen by her are incompletely rendered."
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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WHAT it begins with, I know finally, is the kernel of meanness in people's hearts. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but wonderfully written July 7 2004
By Pam Bak
I had this book sitting on my shelf for sometime since Oprah first recommended it. I happen to pick it up recently to take to the beach. I must admit it was not an easy read and there were many times when I wondered why I was reading it because it was so painful. The ending was not unexpected for me because I felt like we were always leading to a crescendo only I was secretly hoping it would have been a happy one. Needless to say, it was certainly more appropriate than anything sugar coated. I was truly emotionally touched by Ruth's wonderful ability to look past the imperfections of those around her. I completely agree with other reveiwers in that this is not a light read but one that will never totally leave your heart and soul. The book is well worth the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A stunning novel May 30 2004
This book is definately set at a slow pace and rich in confimration of Ruth's harsh reality. It is incerdibly well written and thorough of this woman's life. I began reading it with no prior information, and was constantly looking for signs of a positive turn in Ruth's life. Don't read it and expect to feel warm and fuzzy. I think that the redemption in The Book of Ruth is that each character is subtle in showing their selfless qualities. The end does contain a note of guarded optimism and leaves the future open for readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Read! May 11 2004
I read this book many years ago but it left such an impact on me. I still remember the words from the first paragraph and the horrific ending. I didn't find it to be an easy read but it was well worth it. I felt it made such a powerful statement. Would highly recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wow! Jan. 10 2004
I was amazed last year to discover Jane Hamilton. I'm really glad I disregarded my initial impulse _not_ to read _Book of Ruth_ because it was an Oprah pick (it's a prejudice I have, and I should know better than to make gross generalizations). It's like nothing I've read since _The Sound and the Fury_, and although I (understandably) hesitated to mention Hamilton and Faulkner in the same thought, there it is.
For once, my ability to put my thoughts into words may fail me in describing the engrossment with which I enjoyed this novel. A surprise from a friend of 4 years' standing was her telling me that she had read it, too, and that, while she grudgingly admitted that it was "probably well-written" (I'd never heard her make a value judgment on her reading before--she was always amazingly self-deprecating about her "beach-level" reading habit), it was also a "downer." I wasn't hooked in my reading of _Ruth_ at that point, and almost decided to abandon the effort based on her comment. I'm an avid reader, but I don't _look_ for depressing novels.
The novel is not depressing. It's beautiful in its evocation of what p.c.-speech calls "marginal" characters. The power with which the effects of the mother's (and, horrifically, a father's) personality are conveyed is very affecting. The optimism, and--if the pun can be pardoned--the ruthlessness with which the daughter (and a son) nonetheless perseveres in her/his attainment of all the riches that every life offers are conveyed with no less impact. The novel truly amazes in its depictions of the squalor, hope, passions, and horror unthinkably (and unthinkingly) wrought upon _present_ human relations by _past_ human relations. A strong reader will come away from _Ruth_ with some of the optimism, in wonder at the persistence of the human need for love and the many forms it can take. A reader less strong might put _Ruth_ aside without being able to finish it. Both will remember the experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Excruciating Brutality of Life and Truth July 13 2003
The Book of Ruth is an experience in reading I will never forget. Though a review on the back of the book refers to it as a human comedy, I totally disagree. Written like an autobiography, The Book of Ruth chronicles the intense life of Ruth Grey. She lived with her rude mother May and her younger brother Matt. Ruth was a person with very low self esteem and she wasn't brilliant either. Matt was a genius who always acted superior to Ruth and stuck up to their mother and their mother would always show favoritism to Matt. Eventually, Matt went off to a great college, and Ruth became a dry clean worker with her mother and they lived together. Soon after, Ruth marries a cheap man named Ruby and they end up living a crumbling life with May. The novel goes through the life of Ruth with her struggles, thoughts, friends, and her very few happy moments. By the time you reach the beginning of the ending it immediately and unexpectedly comes at you. The novel's portrayel of truth and life is so perfect it is haunting and unbearable. The conclusions are mesmerizing and powerful. A painfully honest and astoundingly gorgeus book that must not be neglected. Strongly Reccomend!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ever wonder how people survive reality? Jan. 6 2007
Did you ever think about how when you see some "sensational, human interest" tragedy on the evening news, that there are real people in that story? The news wants you to think it's entertainment. Meanwhile, Hamilton writes a story that reads like real. Hard struggles, and nobody is all good or all bad. And people struggle through. Thankfully, in some ways most people do not experience tragedy. And yet I think most readers will find something familiar in the Book of Ruth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written May 26 2004
By A Customer
This book has been in my bookcase for several years waiting to be read. After seeing the made-for-tv movie version of this book a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pick it up and read it. There were many parts of the movie that were unexplained and I knew that the answers would be found in the book. I was right. This book examines how people adjust to their environments and how sometimes they love unloveable personalities. Throughout the book, Ruth makes excuses for her mother's behavior, her husband's behavior and to a small extent, her brother's behavior. She reasons away other people's bitterness, slothfulness, drug addictions, etc. until it comes to a point when she can no longer make excuses or look the other way. It's a good observation of the different kinds of people that make up this world that we live in.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
It's about a young girl who has a mean mom.It gives the feel of you are not alone to abuse victims.Helped me alot
Published on May 3 2004 by Andreacyatrousis
1.0 out of 5 stars Did not like the book
I belong to a book club, only one person was able to finish the book and she only like the endng. I thought it was boring, it did not hold my interest.
Published on May 2 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars unconvincing...
I thought the narration was good, but unconvincing that Ruth was supposed to be mentally deficient... Read more
Published on May 1 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much unnecessary violence!
I didn't like reading this book. I'm glad I'm finished.
What's the point???
Young girl is born into a disastrous family,
gets involved in a disastrous marriage. Read more
Published on March 13 2004 by L. Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars I put down WOW in my journal!
WOW Is all I can say. I don't want to give the story away, so I won't say more. This book is def one NOT to miss! I will add this one to my library one day.
Published on Feb. 28 2004 by Tonya Speelman
5.0 out of 5 stars second to "To Kill A Mockingbird"
This book is now in second place in my "Top 10 Best Books" behind "To Kill A Mockingbird". I've read it 3 times and know I will again. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Like eating raw chicken...
This novel works backwards. It all starts in the present, in the aftermath of something horrible, and Ruth starts telling the story of her life, as far back as she can... Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004 by Manola Sommerfeld
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