ABOUT THE BOOK:
Set in the South Side of Chicago, an epic, enthralling story of a young woman determined to protect her best friend while a long-buried secret threatens to unravel both their families.
Family. Faith. Secrets. Everything in this world comes full circle.
When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it means she’ll be living alone with her violent father. The only person who understands the gravity of her situation is Ruby’s best friend, Layla. Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what are his true motives? And what is the price for turning a blind eye?
In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla comes to discover the murky loyalties and dark secrets tying their families together for three generations. A crucial pilgrimage through the racially divided landscape of Chicago, Saving Ruby King traces the way trauma is passed down through generations and the ways in which communities can come together to create sanctuary.
Saving Ruby King is an emotional and revelatory story of race, family secrets, faith and redemption. This is an unforgettable debut novel from an exciting new voice in fiction and a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present, and that the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.
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Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West is a 2020 Park Row publication.
Friendship, family, the church, and murder all converge with a reckoning with the past…
This debut novel is set in the south side of Chicago, and is mainly centered around Ruby King and her best friend, Layla. When Ruby’s mother is murdered, in the minds of all those concerned, the prime suspect is her father, Lebanon, a man known to horribly abuse his wife.
Layla’s father is the pastor of the Calvary Hope Christian Church, and for some reason, seems to defend Lebanon, and sternly warns his daughter to steer clear of the situation- despite Layla's deep fear that Ruby may do something drastic.
The church is a focal point for the characters, as it raises its unheard voice to reveal long buried secrets that overlap with current events. The true heart of some of its congregation is illuminating, as well. The book describes the importance of the church and how it is a cornerstone of the community. But, it also draws attention to true Christian faith- which is more than warming a pew on Sunday morning by calling out the way some folks conduct themselves outside of the church.
This is a resonant story, with strong elements involving family loyalty, strong friendship bonds, religious faith, trauma and abuse, but also forgiveness, understanding, and healing.
The author employs several unique tactics giving the story a wide -ranging reach, somehow managing to make the location and the church, significant characters, with important roles in the story.
As praiseworthy as the book is, I did have a some issues with the book:
While I love the author’s boldness, the freshness her style offers readers, there are too many first -person points of view, in my opinion.
This is a writing technique I have always struggled with. It seldom ever fully works for me because I have a hard time keeping up with the numerous characters, plus it prevents me from making a deep emotional connection to the characters. This book also has the added challenge of navigating multiple timelines, which made me work much harder than should have been necessary. It was slow going for a while, but I did eventually find a rhythm and flow.
That said, the book, overall, is very good. There is a restless, uneasy quality about it, a strong sense of foreboding that haunted me all throughout the story. It is dark, and it could be intense at times. It is a crime novel, and a mystery, as advertised, but it also touches on deeper, important, subject matter. I would think this book would be a great book club selection!
Although I struggled with this one a little, I still felt this was a strong debut for this author and is one to keep an eye on!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Catherine Adel West is an editor living and working in Chicago. She graduated with both her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Saving Ruby King is her first novel.
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