Title: Saving Ruby King (Amazon, Goodreads)
Author: Catherine Adel West
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars
“All have the potential to discover peace, turn it into something everlasting. But humans carry their sorrow and disappointment, their trials and tragedies. They drag them with them, ugly, battered luggage, opened and rummaged through for the sheer purpose of torturing themselves with unfortunate past actions.”
“Forever and to the end. That’s what they say instead of I love you.”
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’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy.
Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what is the price for turning a blind eye? In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla uncovers the murky loyalties and dangerous secrets that have bound their families together for generations. Only by facing this legacy of trauma head-on will Ruby be able to break free.
An unforgettable debut novel, Saving Ruby King is a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present and the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.
**Disclaimer** I received this book from the publisher/NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The following is a spoiler-free and honest recap of my thoughts and reactions.
When terrible things happen, it’s human nature to keep quiet about them. But keeping these secrets can have terrible ripple-effect consequences that go on for generations. This book explores those secrets and consequences in a very approachable and fresh style. I loved the voices of Ruby and Layla. They were so relatable and real, and I just wanted to be their friend, too.
The setting of this book–Chicago back in the 1960s and 70s and in the present day–is very well described and brought to life, and I definitely felt like I was there. The realities of the violence experienced by Black women in this setting are unflinchingly portrayed, and my heart split apart into a million pieces reading about these courageous women forced to make terrible choices and keep terrible secrets. I was rooting for all of them throughout, and I loved the connections between generations and the friendships as strong as–and at times stronger than–kinships. The central force of the Church and the fact that it was also a narrator was another key part of this story, and I thought it was a great way to bring everything together.
This book does contain some potentially triggering topics for some (rape, domestic violence) so be forewarned. I think the topics are explored in a sensitive manner, but they are definitely central to the plot.
I thought the book ended in a way that was satisfying and finished the story, leaving me feeling both sad and hopeful. I feel like I’ve made friends for life in Ruby and Layla, and I also loved West’s writing style and can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
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