--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Pegged as the loser in a small-town family that doesn't have much going for it in the first place, Ruth grows up (unlovely and unloved) in the shadow of her mean and brilliant brother, Matt, trying to hold her own in a world of poverty and hard edges. The little happiness she finds is in reading the books on tape for old, blind Miss Finch and in the letters she receives from her adored Aunt Sid. Matt's genius for mathematics is his escape from Honey Creek, but Ruth, with no ticket out, cleaves instead to her tough and bitter mother, May, who continues to trickle out the last of her love to Matt even as he leaves them without a backward glance. Eventually Ruth meets and falls for Ruby, the sweet but slightly deranged man she marries and supports. Ruth spots stains at Trim 'N Tidy Dry Cleaners, bowls at the Town Lanes, and tries in vain to keep the peace between May, whose lashing criticisms blow through the cramped house with gale force, and Ruby, who spends his days getting stoned and watching reruns of Bewitched on TV. The arrival of Justy, Ruth and Ruby's newborn son, temporarily suspends everyone in mutual joy, but soon the baby becomes the object of their most heated contention. When the precarious household erupts in violence, Ruth is the only one who can piece their story together - and she gets at the truth in a manner at once ferocious, hilarious, and heartbreaking.
In this powerful, incandescent novel, Jane Hamilton has worked a small miracle: She has given voice to a young woman you have passed on the street a thousand times. Perhaps you have never noticed her, but the next time you see her, you will know who she is. Passionate in her commitment to life, Ruth is a stunning testament to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and love. The Book of Ruth is Hamilton's magnificent début.