Monday, November 28, 2011

A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

Okay people.  You can read this on your lunch hour.  Go do it now.

On the surface it is a novel about Ruby and Blinking Jack, who maybe didn't start out madly in love but have formed a good team and they're mighty fond of each other.  But, when you delve a little deeper, you realize that the book is really about marriage in all of its different iterations.  For example, you've got Ruby and her first husband who was a real scoundrel and taught her that love and marriage is not a Rock Hudson movie. And then there is the marriage between Tiny Fran and Burr.  Tiny Fran is the most horrible human being imaginable. When she gets knocked up by some unknown fellow, her father offers one of his tenant farmers land of his own if he'll make an honest woman of her.  Burr accepts and even though she treats him like crap, he looks after her and raises a lovely daughter.  We also get snapshots of the marriages of the parents of Ruby, Jack, and Tiny Fran.  Everywhere you look in this story you've got a union of some sort.

Photo Credit
All of these stories (and more) are incorporated in a single narrative clocking in at about 165 pages.  You wouldn't think it would pack such a punch, but I was bawling by the end of it.  We find out on the very first page (so this is not a spoiler) that Ruby has died.  But, in her loving foresight, she cooked a whole freezer full of meals for Jack and so we discover him on page one having eaten to the bottom of the deep freeze and feeling at a loss as to what to do next.  The chapters alternate between Jack and Ruby speaking in the first person and you grow to love them and all the other characters they tell you about.

I found out, after reading this book, that it was an Oprah pick.  Don't let that put you off.  In fact, if you look at the Amazon reviews, all of Oprah's regular readers didn't really like this one too well.

<I bought this book at my Friends of the Library book sale.>

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