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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778305095
Hardcover, $27.99, 320 pages
I love reading a debut novel from a new author, the excitement of finding a new voice, knowing that the author has poured everything into this endeavor. Catherine Adel West's Saving Ruby King is a debut novel, and it's brilliant.

The novel opens with Ruby King's mother murdered in her own home on the South Side of Chicago. Many people suspect Ruby's father, a man with a bad temper who had spent time in prison for killing a man years ago. People suspected that Ruby's father Lebanon beat his wife, but that was a not so hidden secret.

Ruby's best friend since childhood, Layla, is concerned for Ruby's safety. Ruby is distraught, but won't allow Layla to help. Layla's father, Jackson, the pastor of Calvary Church, has known Lebanon since childhood, and has been secretly giving money to Lebanon for some unknown reason.

Layla wants to help Ruby, but Jackson orders her to stay away from Lebanon. Layla and her father have been butting heads recently, and things that have been simmering under the surface are coming to a head.

The story is alternately narrated by Layla, Jackson, Ruby, Lebanon, and even Calvary Church narrates secrets that have happened within its walls. The two families have grown up in that church, from Lebanon and Jackson's mothers as children, to Layla and Ruby.

Saving Ruby King has elements of a mystery to it- who killed Ruby's mother, why is Jackson giving money to Lebanon- as well as a multigenerational story about secrets and the damage that keeping those secrets can cause down through the generations.

I found myself totally absorbed in this emotional story from the opening pages, and every revelation was another gut punch. The idea of Calvary Church narrating parts of the story worked so well, the church is central to the lives of these people.

I highly recommend Saving Ruby King for anyone who likes a compelling story, with characters that you can empathize with, and a strong sense of setting. I hope to be reading more books from Catherine Adel West in the very near future, she is a wonderful writer. And if you want to read more books by black authors, Saving Ruby King is a good place to start.

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