Give me a generational family story ANY DAY of the week! It is one my favorite elements and Saving Ruby King does it so well! I was constantly on the edge of my seat while reading and I finished it in one day. That’s got to mean something right? Keep reading this book review to find out why I loved Saving Ruby King so much!
When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy.
Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what is the price for turning a blind eye? In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla uncovers the murky loyalties and dangerous secrets that have bound their families together for generations. Only by facing this legacy of trauma head-on will Ruby be able to break free.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: domestic abuse, abuse, incest, past suicide attempt
Saving Ruby King is part mystery part thriller as our family secrets never stay buried. This multiple POV debut novel, examines two families who are intertwined over years and in shocking ways. It’s a story about escape, mistakes, and bravery. What starts out as a murder mystery about what happened to Alice, Ruby’s mother, ends up uncovering a shocking and gripping past stretching back generations. We think we may know our family, and our past, but we have no idea.
Absolutely gripping complex story
We may begin by wondering who the guilty culprit is, but what happens is that we begin to realize that today’s guilt stretches back years. The situations and circumstances of our childhood in new light. And the secrets we hold over each other’s head, the ones we hold in our hearts, and the ones that never let go of us. Saving Ruby King is a story that allows the complex natures of people, and communities, to emerge. The good, the bad, and the bystanders. All merging into one, into figures who need to reconcile their pasts and the figures we respect.
Can I also just say that I loved how the church, which is such a central location and figure in the story, has its own POV? I have been dreaming of a story which features the POV of objects, the secrets, and stories they could tell and my wish was granted!
Characters and Trauma
West is able to balance action that unfolds and captivates readers, with characters who are able to be incredibly flawed and human. The ways those in our community turn away from abuse. Women who try to help you leave, versus those who help you cover it up. People who may be respected, but be hiding secrets no one is willing to speak aloud. It’s a book that examines how we escape and pass on trauma. How do we navigate our own feelings of self-worth, of identity, of unanswered questions?
Cycles of generational violence that fundamentally changes a person. Makes them believe that this is their new reality. There’s a beauty to Saving Ruby King in its writing, but also in the way West is unafraid to expose contradictions. Or the ways it illustrates the pressure of mental health, friendship, and love. It directly tackles the fear Black folx feel of the police. The stories we repeat to protect ourselves from ugly lies and truths we can’t deal with, until we begin to believe our own fiction.
Saving Ruby King is a phenomenal debut. West explores guilt and sacrifice, responsibility and family. The ways the past holds us prisoner. How can we move forward, truly ever escape? I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys generational family stories, flawed and complex characters, and thrilling mysteries. Find Saving Ruby King on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.