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The Book of Ruth: A Novel Paperback – Dec 1 1989

3.7 out of 5 stars 249 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (Dec 1 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385265700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385265706
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 0.9 x 26.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 249 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #246,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I thought the author cheated in a number of ways. She's writing in first person narrative but she speaks as though she knows the thoughts of everyone around her which she would only know if she were omniscient. It's written almost entirely in exposition which is a very dry and impersonal way to tell a story. She doesn't make use of dialogue as a means of moving the plot forward. Most of the lines of dialogue are scattered in between long paragraphs of description and this doesn't lend itself to a personal connection to the story or to the characters within. She didn't develop the character of the brother at all. I knew he was there but he rarely spoke so it felt like he was invisible. I didn't find the final act of violence believable. He showed no signs of violence prior to the murder except the killing of a chicken and who doesn't kill chickens on a farm?

I picked up the book thinking I'd love it because I have a memory of seeing Oprah talking to the author years ago telling her she loved the character of Ruth. I was expecting to love her as well but I didn't. At best, I felt ambivalent towards her. When the murder occurred, I was happy that something finally happened because nothing seemed to happen in the character's lives.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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 remember.
The book opens with Ruth under the refuge of her aunt Sid, who reflects on how Ruth is intelligent, when in fact it was assumed she was an idiot. Ruth blames it on her lack of education, on her poor vocabulary. This is true: how many people cannot speak English properly and some assume they are dumb?
Ruth had an unfortunate childhood, with a cold mother and an absent father. By the way, it took me a little while to realize May and Elmer were her parents, as Ruth chose to refer to them by their first names, not as mom and dad. Ruth did not know any better, and fell for the first guy who paid attention to her. Unfortunately, it happened to be Ruby. Ruth and Ruby, what a couple! She is perfectly fine with him being a lazy slob. Her hunger for a normal life is so great that she can do without those ingredients that make your life normal. Even after Ruby shows his true colors (I won't spoil the plot here), she excuses him and blames something else for his actions: drugs, his drowning accident, his father's beatings... Her codependency on Ruby is so deep that Ruth gets mad at her brother and aunt after reading a letter where they describe her marriage as a disaster in the making.
This book was quite brutal and harsh. Do not expect a happy ending.
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Format: Paperback
This book is good in that it is very intriguing to read- it makes you want to keep on reading until you get to the gruesome end. Full of twisted characters and a horrifyingly strange plot, this book is shocking. Ruth is a girl who is not very bright, and she is outshined by her genius younger brother, who goes to Boston to a great university in order to study physics and astronomy. May, Ruth's mother, always belitted Ruth and called her stupid. She made Ruth do all of the dirty work while she pampered her younger son, Matt. Ruth befriends a trashy girl with a golden heart named Daisy. Ruth works at the dry cleaners as a living because she isn't too bright. Her mother is still mean to her even though she is grown up and Ruth lives a miserable life. She trusts in Daisy and her Aunt Sid, who lives in a different city but has always written to her often since she was a little girl. Ruth meets a low class man named Ruby and marries him. They live in Ruth's house. They have a little boy named Justin and try to live happily with Ruth, but she is always picking on Ruby because he drinks and is lazy.
You would think that I had pity for Ruth, but I didn't have pity for her because she had a twisted, dirty mind and did not want to better herself as a person.
The book shows a different point of view on religion. Ruth has pretty much lost her childhood faith in God and thinks of him as a myth that only little children believe in, kind of like Santa Claus. She is resentful of the pastor talking about Jesus all the time. She doesn't believe that there is a heaven or a hell. Basically, she is an atheist.
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