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" A Virtuous Woman", a Novel (Oprah's Book Club) [Paperback]

Kaye Gibbons
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 1920 Oprah's Book Club
When Blinking Jack Stokes met Ruby Pitt Woodrow, she was twenty and he was forty. She was the carefully raised daughter of Carolina gentry and he was a skinny tenant farmer who had never owned anything in his life. She was newly widowed after a disastrous marriage to a brutal drifter. He had never asked a woman to do more than help him hitch a mule. They didn't fall in love so much as they simply found each other and held on for dear life.

Kaye Gibbons's first novel, Ellen Foster, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the praise of writers from Walker Percy to Eudora Welty. In A Virtuous Woman, Gibbons transcends her early promise, creating a multilayered and indelibly convincing portrait of two seemingly ill-matched people who somehow miraculously make a marriage.


Product details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (1 Jan 1920)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703065
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,115,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Full of fantastically gritty metaphors, and with strains of class and race stretching like a fragile elastic band... a book that will change your dreams if not your life. (OBSERVER)

An exquisitely realised piece of writing. (Elizabeth Buchan, MAIL ON SUNDAY) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Kaye Gibbons has received the Sue Kaufman Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Nationalal Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, The Chicago Tribune's Hearland Prize, a Citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, amongst other honours. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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She hasn't been dead four months and I've already eaten to the bottom of the deep freeze. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Country Death Song 12 Feb 2004
Format:Paperback
This short, spare book concerns the unlikely marriage between Ruby Pitt and tenant farmer "Blinking" Jack Stokes, old enough to be her father and physically unprepossessing. The title is from the famous Old Testament passage about the price of a virtuous woman being "far above rubies": hence Ruby Pitt. Except for the last chapter, the novel is made up of alternating first-person narratives from Jack Stokes (after Ruby's death at only forty-five from lung cancer) and from Ruby herself, in the months before her death.
Both characters are beautifully drawn. Ruby is the youngest child of well-off, adoring parents who are still cutting up the meat on her plate for her when she is old enough to have a family of her own. She makes her escape by elopement with John Woodrow, a violent low-life who leaves her high and dry when he is fatally stabbed in a bar-room scuffle. When Jack Stokes comes to her rescue, she sees in him what no-one else has seen: a kind and capable man who will allow her space to be herself.
Jack Stokes is given a wonderfully earthy voice: the action takes place in the southern U.S.A., and he combines gritty country sayings with a disarming honesty. He is a man who never had much in life before Ruby; and after her death, he is again left empty-handed.
Ultimately, then, this is a fairly bleak little book. All the same, it would be worth the admission price for Jack Stokes' country sayings alone; and I'd certainly be interested in reading more of Gibbons' work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful language, strong characterisation. 11 Jun 2001
Format:Paperback
The book is written from the point of view of Jack and Ruby, each taking a turn in narrating a chapter.
The language is typical of Kaye Gibbons, as are the strong characterisations of the protagonists.
Ultimately, it is the story of two people who, despite their differences, have a fantastic marriage and a very strong bond.
The ending is very emotional, as are the majority of the events within the novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kaye Gibbons gets into your soul.... 29 Oct 2013
By Both the Macs VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a short but wonderful read about a couple of misfits who find each other. This is their story told in alternate chapters, and it is no spoiler to say that the "virtuous woman" of the title is dead, but you will know that within the first paragraph. Beautiful - in a way that chick lit isn't.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful language, strong characterisation. 11 Jun 2001
Format:Paperback
The book is written from the point of view of Jack and Ruby, each taking a turn in narrating a chapter.
The language is typical of Kaye Gibbons, as are the strong characterisations of the protagonists.
Ultimately, it is the story of two people who, despite their differences, have a fantastic marriage and a very strong bond.
The ending is very emotional, as are the majority of the events within the novel.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  128 reviews
72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The love a man has for his wife 25 Jan 2002
By Barbara - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Here'a wonderful, basic story of heartfelt love. There was something about Ruby from the first day Jack saw her at the picnic table where all the migrant workers met before work. Ruby Pitt was a woman that bore her share of crosses.
This story follows Jack's love for his wife through their marriage, through Ruby's illness and beyond.
It's a sweet story that will pull at your heart strings and I have to say, it had me crying at one point til I couldn't see through the tears.
You will love Ruby and Jack. You'll want to take their hands and help them. And there are some characters that you just won't like at all! Some truely mean people.
This is a quick read and a very enjoyable, hard to put down book. I strongly recommend reading this book. It's just plain old fashioned love and tenderness between two good human beings and the struggles they endure.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read 11 April 2005
By drebbles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Beautifully written, A Virtuous Women, is the quiet love story of Ruby Pitt Woodrow, daughter of a rich farmer, and Jack Stokes, a tenant farmer. At first they seem an unlikely match, Ruby, although 20 years younger than Jack, is already widowed, Jack, unattractive and unsuccessful, has never been married. But both have had tough lives. Ruby is alienated from her parents due to her brief marriage which was a disaster. She is working as a maid when she meets Jack. Jack has never had much, although his dream is to own a piece of land. Together they find, if not what they were looking for, a sense of completeness.

The book is written in first person narration with both Jack and Ruby narrating alternate chapters (except the last chapter which is written in the third person). This technique helps make both characters seem real. For me, personally, Jack was the character I most cared about, mostly because we know from the very beginning that Ruby dies and we see that Jack is lost without her.

This is one of those simple, quiet kind of books where there is little action or plot, just the story of two people who come to love and care for each other. Yet, it's the kind of story that will stay with you long after you've read it.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A virtuous man, too 28 Sep 2002
By "siammuse" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a story told in two voices.
One is Ruby's...kind,beautiful Ruby, who happens to be at the right place at the right time when she meets Jack Stokes. The opposite of her abusive, drinkin, womenizin first husband. Ruby tells us how Jack takes her away from all that dysfunction, promising her a decent life, caring for her, treating her like the lady she is.
Jack devotes himself completely to Ruby, gives his heart to her, showing his love in unique ways. For instance, buying her a mule!
He isn't the best looking man, or the smartest...but that was enough for Ruby.
Then there's Jack's voice. Jack is a man after my own heart. I couldn't help thinking...this book could have just as well been called, "A Virtuous Man"
40 yrs old when he sets eyes on Ruby sitting under a pecan tree...He says, "now that's a girl I could marry."
And after those eyes meet hers, nothing is the same. Everything afterwards begins and ends with Ruby.
I adored Jacks narrative, his kindness, the love he expressed to Ruby. After Ruby dies, the only thing keeping him going is wishing and hoping she comes back...laying next to him in bed, her skin touching his skin, smelling of lavender, and eating her usual dish of yogurt.
Gibbon's gives us other memorable characters also, like Little Fran, who is the devil dressed as a fat woman.
She gives up Mavis, who is hired when Ruby dies to help around the house but mostly helps herself to orange candy and soda and breaks the toilet seat.
I enjoyed the book, but the 4 star rating is for Jack. His voice makes the story much more interesting than it would have been otherwise.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what you might expect. 16 Aug 2000
By Katherine Neis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The first book I read by Gibbons, Ellen Foster, was really impressive. So when i picked up The Virtuous Woman, I was naturally anticipating more of the same. The story centers around a man named Jack who, at 40, falls in love with and marries Ruby, only 20 and already widowed. According to the back of the book, the main focus is their intense love for each other. While the book was interesting to read and very easily finished in a few hours, I find that I am left with more information about the neighbors, the landlords, Ruby's first marriage, Jack's years of work... everything else except Ruby and Jack's life together. This seems odd considering Gibbons speaks through the couple individually from chapter-to-chapter. One would think I would have ample information about their life together yet I do not feel as if I do. I don't want to say it was a bad book because it kept my attention and I enjoyed the plot. It just seemed a bit bland. Also, Ruby never consults her parents about any of the important decisions in her life (decisions made at 18, 19 and 20) nor does she ever live independently. She just sort of makes decisions without thinking and then hopes for the best. So, although she has a big heart, I can't really respect her as a woman. All in all, I would say it is a good book that could use some polishing to make it a great book.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Calm down, everyone! 16 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In my opinion, this book was certainly not a must-read or a "rare gem" or a highly-recommendable book, as the earlier people who reviewed this book wrote. Neither is it a book that is so horrible it can't be finished, or one that damns Oprah's selections forever (though I must say I don't let daytime talk show hosts dictate my book selections), as more recent reviewers leaned.
First of all, I'm shocked by all of the reviewers who seem to be equating a depressing book with one that's not worth reading. Some of the best books ever are quite sad. To all those people, I say: go buy a magazine, a trashy romance novel or a comic book. Furthermore, although I did almost cry a couple of times, I didn't find this book depressing at all. It was a sad story--of Ruby's abuse and then of her dying--but the love between Ruby and Jack made this more of a love story than anything else. I liked the switching back and forth of narrators, and I especially liked that Ruby and Jack were speaking from different time periods, too. I liked reading about Jack's life following Ruby's death in one section, and then reading about Ruby preparing for her death in the next. I found her preparation of months' worth of food for Jack touching, and it was very clear throughout how much the couple loved each other. Whether this was based on true love or on need, as some reviewers suggest, is debatable, but does not speak to the strength of the connection between them, which I felt was very powerful.
I think a lot of Southern literature is tough for readers from other parts of the country/world, and this novel is no different. However, isn't that why people read? To learn about experiences not just of people and surroundings very similar to their own, but of different types of people from different parts of the world, with different lifestyles, perspectives, vocabularies, accents, values, interests and lives?
I'm planning on reading "Ellen Foster," as that seems much better received.........
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