I couldn’t tell you where this book came from. I am sure it was not new when I got it — I probably picked it up from a used book store after reading and liking Jane Hamilton‘s second book, A Map of the World.
What I liked most about the extremely depressing A Map of the World was that it took place in Wisconsin. While I don’t know the area of Wisconsin in which this book took place, the fact that it was in Wisconsin made me happy, despite the subject matter.
The Book of Ruth is also depressing, but very well-written and the story is engrossing. The Book of Ruth takes place in Honey Creek a (made-up) small town in Northern Illinois on the border of Wisconsin.
Honey Creek is way up in the very north of Illinois. If you lean over the Abendroths’ back fence your torso is in Wisconsin.
I tried to plot where the town could be by clues in the story.
- Borders Wisconsin
- 40 miles from DeKalb
- Rockford is closest big city
I figured it was somewhere near Harvard, Illinois. I have probably been there. Dean was there just last week. Ruth’s Aunt Sid (from the book) lives in DeKalb — where I went to college and near where Dean’s brother lives.
The Book of Ruth centers on young Ruth, the daughter of a bitter, likely depressed, woman named May and an absent father named Elmer. Ruth has a brother, Matt, who is brilliant and who eventually escapes to MIT. Ruth marries a local man, Ruby, who may or may not be developmentally delayed. The book is about dysfunctional families living in poverty and what they do to survive.
I’ll continue reading Jane Hamilton (happily she’s written at least two more books) but will wait a while in case her other stories are as depressing as A Map of the World (social ostracization) and The Book of Ruth (poverty, depression).
Stats 298 pages. Started June 14. Finished June 26.