Healing Ruby – Book Review


Dear faith readers,

According to author Jennifer H. Westall, her novel Healing Ruby is an inspirational story that is uplifting, so I read it.

Here’s my review: The story is set in Northern Alabama, Hanceville and Good Hope. Near Cullman. Ruby Graves is asked to clean the dinner dishes again, due to being the daughter. After being taunted by Henry, her brother, in a rage, she throws a kitchen knife at him. It lodges in his neck. He survives the accident.

Healing RubyThe stock market crashes. It’s October 1929. Abner Graves, the dad is very ill from diabetes. He’s going to lose his feet.

“Are you going to die?” Ruby asks her Dad.

Abner evades the question. “No one knows what God’s plan is.”

James, Henry, and Ruby are the children. Ruby, fourteen, is a bean bole and antisocial. Henry plays basketball for the Good Hope basketball team.

A week before Christmas, Abner’s right foot is scheduled for amputation. On Friday afternoon. They celebrate Christmas on Thursday night. Ruby got a new summer dress.

Later Ruby gets her first job. She helps with cleaning at Mrs. Doyle’s home. Matthew Doyle, the son has T.B. He’s dying.

The first of April, Abner lost his other foot. He asked Ruby to read Matthew Chapter 9 to him. Then 2 Corinthians Chapter 4 vs 15…For comfort.

Matthews’s minister, Reverend Cass, says that God inflicted him with T.B. and God will bless him because of it. Matthew’s faith is crushed because of it as he coughs up more blood.

Several months later, Abner’s kidney’s begin to fail. Dr. Fisher tells the family his time is short.

The funeral was hard for Ruby. God had not healed her Dad as she had prayed for. Instead God had chosen to take him. Her faith was in question. Asa, Abner’s brother shows up at the funeral which causes a disturbance.

Reverend Cass persists with Matthew that his T.B. is punishment for his sins. He needs to repent and learn what God wants to teach him.

Asa was a minister many years ago. He lost his way. Asa believes Ruby has the gift of healing.

Matthew begins to improve. Ruby takes him outside. She lets him shoot a basket, which he makes. It causes a lung hemorrhage. Ruby gets Uncle Asa Graves to pray with her for Matthew’s healing but Asa has lost his faith. Soon Asa prays for healing for Matthew and he begins to improve. The prayers seem to be answered.

Due to Matthew’s continued recovery, Ruby was no longer needed to care for him. She lost her job at the Doyle house.

Mr. Campbell, the banker, informs the Graves kids that the mortgage is three months past due. Mother already knew. He informs them the property is being put up for auction in a week. Thirteen farms in Good Hope so far that month have been auctioned off for back payments.

The family is legally removed from the property. James tells them he’s found a place for them to live. Mr. Calhoun’s place. One of his tenant houses. They can work the land for half the profit and live there free. “Share-cropping?” Henry and Ruby objected, “Slavery!” James is marrying Emma Rae, Calhoun’s daughter to ensure his family is treated fairly. Next year, if Calhoun allows. Mom agrees. “What choice do we have?” June 25, 1931 they left the farm.

Their new place is a shack in a field. Tiny stove. One cabinet. Tiny fireplace. No furniture. One tiny bedroom. The family settles into their new life as share-croppers. Mrs. Graver volunteers at the soup kitchen where the family gets many free meals.

Ruby meets a very poor, black share-cropper mother and son, Hannah and Samuel. Hannah is pregnant. She claims to have been raped by the devil himself. Ruby believes she is called to help Hannah and Samuel. She begins to bring them food. Reverend Cass expresses his disapproval. According to Cass, she is overstepping her boundaries. Mrs. Graves begins to suspect Pastor Cass is crooked and sinister.

Henry leaves the home in the middle of the night after a big family argument.

Ruby meets Pastor Shaw from Colony, Hannah’s minister. He warns her to discontinue these visits and food gifts. She could be making powerful people angry. He tells Ruby to stop reading to Samuel. Ruby begins to wonder if she’ll ever meet a preacher that actually practices God’s Word.

Pastor Cass finds Ruby in the food pantry. Accuses her of stealing food for that N…. and half-breed child and demands that she leave. She’s no longer welcome there. “You are the most horrible man I have ever known!” Ruby shouts in anger. “By the same measure you judge everyone else, you also will be judged!”

Soon, Reverend Cass makes good on an earlier threat and sabotages their cotton prices. James is given a reduced price for his cotton due to Ruby’s involvement with Hannah and Samuel. Another family fight ensues; this one is between James and Ruby.

Hannah is beaten up. The food is destroyed. Ruby is confused and crushed. Chester, Calhoun’s son is there. He’s involved with Reverend Cass. To teach Ruby a lesson to leave colored people alone, Chester beats her, breaking four ribs, a concussion, deep cuts in her forehead and leg.

Soon thereafter, Ruby leaves home and goes to Good Hope to live with her Grandmother Graves and Asa.

There, she learns the family secrets from Uncle Asa. Grandma Graves is dying. After her death, Asa tells Ruby it’s time for her to go home.

Ruby confronts Reverend Cass. Tells him she knows he was behind her being beaten up. That she forgives him. His sin is against God now. She accuses him of not being saved. “A goat.” She left and would never set foot in Reverend Cass’s church again.

Ruby goes to Hannah and Samuel’s home again with food. Matthew drove her. He tells her they put together enough food and clothes to get Hannah and Samuel through the winter and took it to them. Matthew built them a very small home out of wood. All while Ruby was away.

Henry came home for Christmas. Right away James picks a fight about him running away from his responsibilities. Henry left again in the middle of the night.

Ruby visits Dr. Fisher. He refuses to help Hannah due to the color of her skin. Ruby asks for instructions about birthing a child since Dr. Fisher won’t help.

Matthew and Ruby confront Chester in front of Calhoun about his attack on Ruby. Chester admits he and his dad, Calhoun, were both raping Hannah as much as they wanted, as often as they wanted. Matthew and Chester begin to fight. They stop brawling due to a tornado.

Hannah is severely injured in the violent storm and forced into labor. Ruby delivers the baby on the side of the road, with Samuel’s help. Matthew soon arrives in his truck and drives them to Cullman Hospital, an all-white hospital. Desperately hoping Hannah would be treated. Her condition was critical.

At the hospital, the doctor refused to treat Hannah. “We don’t treat colored in this hospital.” Ruby works on Hannah herself with bandages that Matthew finds and with prayer.

Even though Matthew was the beneficiary of healing from prayer, he says he doesn’t believe in healing from prayer. Or God’s healing. Ruby breaks up with him. Tells him to leave. He leaves.

Ruby finds Dr. Fishes down the hall. Tells him about Hannah. He helps her. Orders surgery for her arm.

Ruby runs into Reverend Cass at the hospital when she is praying with the injured and getting them water. Cass is furious. He says the tornado is God’s judgement for their sins. They argue about Cass’s right to judge. He points his finger at Hannah’s baby. “And this abomination will not be tolerated. Judgement day will come.”

Dr. Fisher drove Ruby, Hannah, and her kids to Colony and her family when she was discharged. Calhoun is Samuel’s father, Hannah tells Ruby. Hannah, Samuel, and Isaiah live with Hannah’s mom and dad now.

Asa is staying with the Graves again. He’s helping clean up after the tornado.

Matthew came back to talk with Ruby. She tells him goodbye. She’s pursuing God’s plan for her life.

The End

This is a tragic story on many levels. The financial collapse of the Graves family after Mr. Graves died is horrific. The injustices that Hannah is forced to endure because of the color of her skin is unimaginable.

I hope that as Ruby grows, her faith remains as strong.

I found Healing Ruby to be more full of tragedy than I was expecting. Ruby’s faith, strength, and stubborn was much more than I expected, especially for a very young girl. Perhaps a bit too young for the story. Overall I enjoyed the book. Everything except the bigotry. Set during the great depression in Northern Alabama.

My rating 4.5 stars

May good fortune guide your path,

J.A. Ireland