Ruby Graves, a young girl in Depression-era Alabama, faces the hardships of poverty and loss with as much faith as she can muster. At only the age of thirteen, she’s already lost a younger brother to illness, and now faces losing both her father and the boy who’s stealing her heart to illnesses as well. Armed with her beloved Scriptures, she prays daily for their healing, only to have her tender faith shattered by her father’s death.
Through her pain, she’s able to connect with her long-lost Uncle Asa, who’s mere presence at his brother’s funeral brings murmurs of a scandalous past involving her parents and a prominent local pastor, Irwin Cass. When Ruby discovers that one of Asa’a many secrets is an ability to heal, and that she may be next in line for the “gift,” she vows to find the faith that has eluded her so far, a faith that could mean never losing loved ones again.
But faith and doubt can’t reside in the same heart, not according to her father, and doubt is Ruby’s constant companion. As she struggles to find the true meaning of faith, she’s opposed at every turn by the pastor who would see her family destroyed and a community that can’t see deeper than the color of one’s skin. Through her search for a faith that could move mountains and a true understanding of her gift, can Ruby trust in a God that may require the ultimate sacrifice?
In Westall’s (Love’s Providence, 2012) first installment of a planned series, a young girl from rural Alabama struggles to stay true to her Christian faith and do what’s right, regardless of the consequences.
Abner Graves is a deeply religious man who provides for his family with a modest farm and by running a local cotton gin. Generous to a fault, he helps his neighbors as much as he can as the Depression hits the United States. His daughter, Ruby, inherits his generous spirit, and when Abner dies, she carries on his tradition of helping those in need—even after her family loses their home and they can barely feed themselves. The novel follows 13-year-old Ruby as she struggles to follow the path that she believes God has placed before her. Wise beyond her years, the empathetic girl has the gift of being able to recognize and exactly meet the needs of others. After her estranged uncle hints that her spiritual gifts could be used for even greater purposes, she sets out to learn just what God has in store for her. She’s stubborn and willful, but possesses a sweet, humble faith, and her journey pits her against the wishes of her family and presiding social norms. But even when everyone, including a rigid local pastor, seems to be against her, Ruby never loses confidence in God’s plan. She’s a compelling, relatable character, and serves as the novel’s moral compass. This soulful, often poignant novel explores difficult subjects such as death, racism and religious hypocrisy, while still remaining hopeful. One of its greatest strengths is its cast of well-drawn secondary characters, including the aforementioned vengeful preacher who tries to thwart Ruby at every turn. Ruby’s unlikely friendship with a cast-out African-American woman and her child is a particularly bright spot in this often heavy novel.
A fast-paced story that will leave readers wondering what’s next for Ruby Graves.