Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Virtuous Woman

I finished A Virtuous Woman, by Kaye Gibbons.

It's fiction, the story of Jack Stokes and his wife, Ruby. (You get it, right? Ruby? The price of a virtuous woman? )I really liked the book in the beginning. The author uses an interesting technique to let each of the two characters voices be heard, and I thought it was cool, and a mark of her skill as a writer, that each voice is so instantly recognizable.

The story is sad and ends sad. The two main characters have a happy life that contains, as all people's lives contain, some sad and hard things. I don't really like a sad book, because I see enough sadness in the real world around me that I don't want to see more of it when I'm escaping into a book. I know that there have to be sad stories, I just don't want to think about sorrow and grief and despair during my vacation, you know? I guess I just never feel so happy that I need a sad story to bring me back down to reality. I'm usually in the mood to be cheered up and amused. A sad story doesn't make me feel better. It just makes me sad.

I noticed too late that this book is one of Oprah's Book Club books. The public library bar code was covering up the symbol on the cover. Rats. But this one is a bit different from her usual selections. Don't get me wrong - there's infidelity, abuse, rape, poverty, and despair, just like there is in all of Oprah's favorite books. (At least all the ones I've managed to struggle through.) This book's redeeming quality for me is that Jack and Ruby love and care for each other, and the bad stuff is mostly peripheral.

I'll share a quote from the book that rang so true for me, and has stuck with me for the last few days: "...sleeping and awake he had dreamt of Ruby. He needed relief from his night, but holding her pillow and crying as he had done other nights would not help him. His frustration and anger had rooted in and taken hold well below the place where tears start, and so would not be washed up nor out by them."

I've had sadness in my life that was washed away by tears, and I've had sadness that is better defined as anguish and despair, sadness that is below tears. I'm glad I read this sad story - it's helped me to remember to honor the pain I see in other people.

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