One of the most true adages I’ve found is that pain will teach you all sorts of things in life you would never know otherwise – both good and bad. Having been acquainted with Depression and its various forms, I was immediately intrigued by Healing Ruby, especially since, coincidentally, it is set during the Great Depression.
The book is the first in a series from Jennifer H. Westall, and this book centers on Ruby Graves, a young teenager who grows up in Alabama during the Great Depression. She struggles with loss, as her younger brother had died when she’d been younger, and her father, throughout the first part of the book, struggles with Diabetes and gradual decline.
In working to help out where she can, Ruby takes a job working with her friend Mary’s family, as her older brother is sick with Tuberculosis, and needs his sheets changed. Ruby is eager to help someone else’s pain ease, as her father’s pain is often too hard for her to witness.
1. Meeting Asa. Throughout the first part of the novel, it is only really Ruby’s POV that you see, and you see it through a lot of her own perspective. Once Asa’s role emerges, you get to see much more of the character of who Ruby’s father was as he was growing up, and how he and his brother got along. Or didn’t get along, depending.
2. Ruby’s Disobedience to her father’s wishes. While this might seem surprising, I appreciated it a lot. Ruby’s father was always very concerned with Ruby having a “proper” role and he was very much against her working in order to help provide for the family, even though she’d wanted to help Mary’s family out and of course, she eventually comes to love Matthew. Her disobedience here really demonstrates the coming-of-age genre, where Ruby gets to make more of her own decisions and takes initiative to make her world a better place, even if it is hard.
3. The contrast between Matthew and Ruby’s Father. In traditional corners, many people would say that a girl becomes a woman when she has responsibility for her own life and over those she takes care of. This dynamic is seen as Ruby grows and matures, both physically and spiritually, and it is very sweet.
4. The difference between religion and Christianity. With the hypocrisy and foreboding preacher, there’s a lot to be said for the difference between Ruby’s daily faith and her clinging spirit to the scriptures over the preacher’s misuse of power from the pulpit. It really demonstrates had people need to carefully consider whether or not they want to follow God and accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for their sins, and once they do so, to keep an active devotion to studying the Bible and it’s passages and history. No one who is a Christian should be willing to blindly follow a preacher, even if the preacher is not vengeful or misguided – we aim for Jesus himself.
5. Racism. The book covers several instances of racism, and how things were done back before the Civil Rights Movement and after Reconstruction. It was incorporated into the book organically, and it was conveyed in a way that many young people will be able to relate to without finding it overly distasteful or disturbing. It was not hidden or inferred; it was directly addressed.
6. How much it reminded me of Little House on the Prairie, though it would be set in Alabama instead of the Midwest. That was pretty self-explanatory.
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