Baileys Longlist 2016: Cynthia Bond’s ‘Ruby’


I didn’t have time to read Cynthia Bond’s Ruby way back when the publisher sent me a copy, and you better believe I regret it now. I’m sure whatever I was doing at the time was important enough to warrant the diversion of my attention, but now I’m left barreling through piles and piles of review books, in the vain hope this particular one made it from my former marital home to my apartment.


Friends, it’s looking grim.




  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hogarth; 01-Apr-08 edition (February 10, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804188246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804188241


Comparisons to Toni Morrison’s prose only add to my sense of desperation. Not a tidy person at the best of times, right now my place looks like a book typhoon hit it.  I literally toss books over my shoulder as I power through the stacks like a mad sorting machine.  And I could perhaps just ask Hogarth for another copy, but now my pride’s at stake. I had it in my hand nd I set it aside.

Shame on me.



“Channeling the lyrical phantasmagoria of early Toni Morrison and the sexual and racial brutality of the 20th century east Texas, Cynthia Bond has created a moving and indelible portrait of a fallen woman… Bond traffics in extremely difficult subjects with a grace and bigheartedness that makes for an accomplished, enthralling read.”

—Thomas Chatterton Williams, San Francisco Chronicle


Being hand-picked by Oprah’s people as a book group title, let’s be honest here, casts a certain shadow on a book. That Ruby was chosen takes away a bit of its cachet. No fault of Cynthia Bond’s of course, and economically speaking a brilliant stroke of luck. However, Oprah’s New Age-y feel good image doesn’t mix so well with high literature. Some credence is lost. SEE: Franzen, Jonathan.

Do I believe Oprah actually reads the books she endorses? Well, maybe, but much as I struggle to find the time to read the bit I do, how on earth could she have so much free time at her disposal?

But then, publicity is publicity. Maybe the whole question’s moot.


quotesWhen I found out that Bond is 53 and hadn’t written a book before, I thought, Wow. This woman was born to write. There’s no other explanation for such a vivid, searing first-time novel that penetrates through the page to the reader’s heart. Writing is Bond’s calling. No question about it.

– Oprah Winfrey (or her people)


So, color me a bit dubious. On the one hand, it sounds stellar. On the other, I’ve written blurbs in the past, and I know exactly how it works. Hold onto your bonnet Lucille, and come perch on my knee. Let me tell you a little secret about the book world… sometimes we exaggerate, using superlatives that are over the top and unrelated to a book’s true merit.

Now, run along and play. Mummy’s busy.

Whatever the truth of the matter, Cynthia Bond’s book made the first cut. But will it make the shortlist, that’s the question. If I can find my freaking copy, maybe I’ll come back and opine on that very matter.  If I can’t, maybe I’ll read up on it some more and come back with an uninformed opinion.

Because you know me by now; not knowing much of anything about a topic hasn’t stopped me from pontificating on it yet. And I don’t see much reason to break that habit now.

Until then, here’s a video review, courtesy of my dear friend Andi at Estella’s Revenge:

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