Book review: The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Tone/mood: dark, sad, tragic with a bit of humor
cnw rating: will not/unable to read again

I will be completely honest.  I did not like this book.  Please do not assume that the author is a bad writer.  Contrarily, Jane Hamilton is actually quite an exceptional writer and that made it difficult for me to read this book.  I found myself so easily drawn into the life of Ruth and her constant battles with her mother and her internal struggle to survive her own life.  I deeply hoped that the protagonist would gain a tremendous “reward” of sorts to compensate for her day to day struggles, but whatever the ending should be labeled, it wasn’t enough for me to feel that this book is one that I will return to.

Jane Hamilton mastered the art of grabbing hold of my attention with Ruth’s voice, but the story itself was just too sad for me to endure.  Ruth speaks in first person and it recounts her experiences with the various people in her life: her mother, father (who later abandons her family), her brother (who alienates himself) and later, her husband and child.  We meet her when she’s a pre-teen and her oddball behavior.  Her desperate need to fit in and feeling completely unloved by her mother was too tragic.  She was funny at times and I definitely sympathized her theories on family and commitment, however, there comes a time when one says enough is enough.  I felt like she should’ve said it was enough.  Older, we see that Ruth progresses into a strong character in the sense that she has abilities that could make her life better.  However, her weakness for letting others get to her and drag her down, made it impossible for her to completely shine and grow.

I mightily wished I liked this book.  The Book of Ruth definitely has some insightful thoughts on life and death, which I admire.  Although I did not agree with everything she said about life, I felt like I could understand where she was coming from.  Jane Hamilton has a way of talking about life without being preachy about it.  Instead, her wisdom sort of seeps subtlety into Ruth’s observations on life and descriptions of the other characters.

I’m not sure if people should or shouldn’t read this book.  I feel like this is one that one must decide for themselves and see how they feel about it.  This was just too dark for me.




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