Unrated | 352 pages | Park Row | Contemporary | 6/16/2020
Trigger Warning: sexual assault, incest and domestic violence
Saving Ruby King examines the past and present of Southside Chicago’s Calagary Baptist congregation after the murder of Alice King. I feel like this could be a read-a-like to The Mothers by Brit Bennett because it’s the story of a specific Black community told through multiple POVs that moves through time.
Alice’s daughter Ruby is left to contend with her abusive father Lebanon–an ex-con who is holding a dark secret over Calgary’s hard-working preacher.
I think the changing POVs gives this book an ideal pacing. I was a little thrown off when the church had it’s own POV but it adds an omniscient voice to the story that ties everything together. At first, I worried the book was trying to make excuses for Lebanon’s behavior by showing us his POV and rough childhood, but the book never makes excuses for his behavior. This book also reminded me of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls–are there more dramatic Black ensemble POV books out there?
There are two things that puzzle me about this book. Helping Ruby find a way out of her grief is her best friend Layla who is also the preacher’s daughter. Ruby and Layla are in their mid-twenties but the book treated them like they were teenagers. They just read more like 18-19, and it wasn’t because they both lived with their parents. The autonomy just wasn’t there.
Second, the cover for this book doesn’t really fit the marketing or the content. I thought this story took place the 1930’s because of the silhouette on the cover. I don’t know what it’s trying to communicate? I’m curious if they will change it for the paperback.