The Book of Ruth: A Novel

by Jane Hamilton

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | December 1, 1989 | Trade Paperback

3.2 out of 5 rating. 5 Reviews
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Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award  for best first novel, this exquisite book  confronts real-life issues of alienation and violence  from which the author creates a stunning testament  to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and  love.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 3.13 × 2.04 × 0.27 in

Published: December 1, 1989

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385265700

ISBN - 13: 9780385265706

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– More About This Product –

The Book of Ruth: A Novel

by Jane Hamilton

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 3.13 × 2.04 × 0.27 in

Published: December 1, 1989

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385265700

ISBN - 13: 9780385265706

Read from the Book

One What it begins with, I know finally, is the kernel of meanness in people''s hearts. I don''t know exactly how or why it gets inside us; that''s one of the mysteries I haven''t solved yet. I always tried to close my eyes and believe that angels, invisible in their gossamer dresses, were keeping their loving vigil. I learned, slowly, that if you don''t look at the world with perfect vision, you''re bound to get yourself cooked. Even though I may still be looking through the dark glass, even though I haven''t finished learning the lessons, I''m the only one who tells the story from beginning to end. It can''t be up to Ruby, because he has been spirited away and born again. Neither love nor prayer can bring him back. May can talk herself blue in the face and no one will hear. By rights this belongs to Justy, because he inherits the earth for a short time, but he doesn''t quite count yet. He''ll remember the taste of pecan balls, exactly how the powdery mash got stuck on the roof of his mouth, the color black maybe, and the color and shape of Ruby''s teeth. They were rotten with sweets. I tell myself that it should be simple to see through to the past now that I''m set loose, now that I can invent my own words, but nothing much has come my way without a price. I''m not counting on a free ride. I know the only way to begin to understand is to steal underneath May''s skin and look at the world from behind her small eyes. I shudder when I think about the inside of Ruby''s head, b
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From the Publisher

Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award  for best first novel, this exquisite book  confronts real-life issues of alienation and violence  from which the author creates a stunning testament  to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and  love.

From the Jacket

Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel, this exquisite book confronts real-life issues of alienation and violence from which the author creates a stunning testament to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and love.

About the Author

Jane Hamilton was born in 1957. She is the author of The Book of Ruth, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction. A Map of the World, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year was named one of the top ten books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, The Miami Herald, and People. Both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World have been selections of Oprah's Book Club. A Map of the World was recently made into a major motion picture, starring Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore. Her work, The Short History of a Prince, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998. She lives in Rochester, Wisconsin.

From Our Editors

A standout in the crowd of first novels, The Book of Ruth follows the story of Ruth, her poverty-stricken family and the overbearing matriarch, May. It's a bittersweet narration of a story that encounters real-life issues of estrangement and disorder. Jane Hamilton offers a magnificent portrayal of the human ability for benevolence, pity, and love. Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, The Book of Ruth, is a stunning novel of immeasurable compassion.

Editorial Reviews

“An American beauty this book…. The narrator of Jane Hamilton’s sensational first novel is a holy lusty innocent.” – Vogue “A sly and wistful, if harrowing, human comedy. Hamilton is a new and original voice in fiction and one well worth listening to.” – Boston Sunday Globe “Ms. Hamilton gives Ruth a humble dignity and allows her hope–but it’s not a heavenly hope. It’s a common one, caked with mud and held with gritted teeth. And it’s probably the only kind that’s worth reading about.” – The New York Times Book Review “Hamilton’s story builds to a shocking crescendo. Her small-town characters are a appealingly offbeat and brushed with grace as any found in Alice Hoffman’s or Anne Tyler’s novels.” – Glamour “Jane Hamilton’s novel is authentically Dickensian…. The real achievement of this first novel is not so much the blackness as the suggestion of resilience. At the end, Ruth begins to put together her shattered body, spirit and life. Her words are awkward, as they have been all along, but suddenly and unexpectedly they shine.” – Los Angeles Times “A disturbing and beautiful book.” –Hilma Wolitzer “An extraordinary story of a family’s disintegration…. Will be compared to Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres . Astonishingly vivid and moving.” – People “An enthralli
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Bookclub Guide

1. Ruth''s story is particularly poignant because of the way she conveys so much that is beyond her understanding. What are the differences between what Ruth tells us and what we infer about her life and the people in it? How does Hamilton achieve this?

2. How do you respond to Ruth''s naiveté? Is her lack of understanding about the people in her life frustrating? Or does her innocence make her a more sympathetic character?

3. May is in many ways a monstrous character in Ruth''s life. What about her is human and invokes our sympathy? Are there any similarities between May and Ruth?

4. How does Ruth get caught between May and Ruby? Does Justy''s birth improve the situation for her at all?

5. Daisy seems comfortable in the world of the novel, even while she remains distinct and apart from everyone in that world. How is her friendship important to Ruth? Is she as well-drawn as the other characters in the book?

6. The Book of Ruth''s climax is hinted at throughout the novel. What effect does this type of foreshadowing have on your reading? Does it add to or diminish the impact of the events when they finally occur?

7. Is Ruth''s attitude toward Ruby justified at the end of the book?

8. Compare the characters of Aunt Sid in The Book of Ruth and Aunt Kate in A Map of the World. Do they serve the same function for Ruth and Alice?

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