by Lynn Pruett
From the 2002 first edition (Atlantic Monthly Press):
Warm and sensuous, Lynn Pruetts whirlwind of a novel drops us into a small town during a blistering Alabama summer where Hattie Bohannon has just opened a truck stop. A magnet for transients of questionable background and inclination, and run by Hatties nubile daughters, the truck stop is an uneasy presence in tradition-bound, gossipy Maridoches. Crackling with the energy and spark of strong, colorful characters whose lives are continually colliding, Ruby River is a poignant, uplifting story by a writer of extraordinary generosity of spirit and earthy wit.
Hattie is quietly mourning her recently dead husband and trying to determine the contours of her self alone, but too often her strong-willed daughterswhose burgeoning sexuality is attracting attention from the truck-stop patronskeep her at loose ends. In a season of unrelenting heat, desire gestates and hovers over Maridoches, threatening the moral equilibrium of the small church-town. Then Hatties oldest daughter, Jessamine, is falsely accused of prostitution, and the reverend conveniently declares war against the immorality of the Bohannons and their establishment. What ensues is a clash of wills and values that will leave no one unaffected.
Lynn Pruett deftly weaves the struggles of Hattie, her daughters, and members of the community into a tapestry of individuals desperately trying to deny the conflicting urges of flesh and spirit, progress and tradition. In the manner of beloved contemporary writers such as Fannie Flagg and Rebecca Wells, Lynn Pruetts glorious talerich with the feel and flavor of the Southcaptures the struggle for the very soul of a community suddenly forced to look at itself in a new light.
Lynn Pruett is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Alabama, where she received her M.F.A. She has been published in American Voice, Southern Exposure, Black Warrior Review, and Telling Stories, an anthology. She currently teaches fiction at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and is a founding member of KaBooM, the Kentucky Book Mafia.
Lynn Pruetts novel is funny, smart, sexy, and full of heart. She understands small towns and small-town people, but she never condescends to her lively and engaging characters.
Lee Smith, author of Fair and Tender Ladies and Saving Grace
Ruby River hosts a large, rollicking cast of wild characterslustful, tender, lovesick, and irrepressible. The plot is completely unpredictable, and Pruett is a smart, wily guide who proves that theres nothing sleepy about this small Southern town.
Julianna Baggott, author of Girl Talk and The Miss America Family
Lynn Pruetts writing can break your heart and make you laugh within the same carefully structured sentence. This novel pulls off that nearly impossible feat of being both wonderfully poetic and wildly entertaining. Most of all, Ruby River is brimming with real lifeall of its joys and sorrows and the moments of revelation in between, told with a graceful clarity that will leave readers desperate for more.
Silas House, author of Clays Quilt and A Parchment of Leaves
Ruby River exposes that slippery tightrope of Southern lifeeverybody always teetering between sin and salvation. Lynn Pruett makes us laugh and love the struggle. Her Alabama characters entice and outragebut more important, they endure. They are not the only ones who triumph: the writing itself bears withness. Ruby River will keep you turning the pages and savoring sentences. It has the sensitivity and surprise of a truly fine piece of fiction.
Nanci Kincaid, author of Verbena and Balls: A Novel
Lynn Pruett is a wonderful storyteller. Limitations of money, education, and mobility confront her characters, but their toughness, humor, and sexuality give them choices, complexity, and fire that make us care deeply about them. She renders tough economic and political realities while keeping the heart fully engaged. Pruett is a hell of a writer and Ruby River is a beautiful novel.
Tim Parrish, author of Red Stick Men