Ruby Davidson is the character around whom all the stories revolve. Starting during WWII and then spanning sixty years, Ruby surprises her small Arkansas town by marrying Bubba Davidson, the decade older Jewish owner of the town's clothing store rather than waiting for her soldier boyfriend, John Clay, to come home from the war. Ruby adores her husband but she's also still in love with John Clay and this two part love will lead Ruby to decisions and down paths she never expected. She is a free-spirited, generous and loving woman, good to her husband and worshipped by her young nieces. She is unconventional and socially conscious living, as she does, through historic times. As the years pass and Ruby lives her life from her 20s to her 80s, there is a real sense of sultry, Southern days tinged with melancholy here. Ruby makes mistakes and hurts people but she is also fierce in her love and tolerance.
The point of view shifts from story to story and many of them have been previously published on their own so they stand alone and complete within themselves. But they also make a united and special whole. Some chapters are narrated by Ruby, some by her nieces, some by John Clay, and others. The different perspectives on Ruby were not always equally strong but they did offer extra insight into her impact on the lives of those loved ones around her. Sometimes Ruby's choices in life were simply stated without offering a motivation, which would have been nice to know and added to the depth. The writing is extremely poetic and lovely. Kaufman draws her characters and their small town beautifully. There are some wonderful colloquialisms here and Ruby's character makes this an uncommon and unique read.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.