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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 5/100: Ruth by Lois T. Henderson

Ruth - Lois T. Henderson

I read this book as part of a year-long reading challenge I'm doing; this month's requirement was to read a book published the year I was born (1981). I felt a bit like I wasn't stay true to the "spirit" of the prompt because this is a historical fiction novel/Biblical retelling, so I didn't think it would have much that spoke specifically to this being written in a different time than the present. But on the acknowledgment page, I got this:


"I want to express thanks to my nephew, Robert Richardson, who spent part of his vacation helping with the typing of the manuscript."


So I went into this book imagining it written longhand, and knowing that revisions would be more work-intensive than they are with modern word processors. As such, I feel like this book was not as rigorously edited as it would have been today. Grammatical issues were fine, but the writing was mediocre and sometimes sloppy. On the first page, a woman is described as having "elfin" features, which seems an out-of-place descriptor in an ancient Middle Eastern society. I am no expert, but a quick search didn't return any results that would place elves in a Biblical context. I also found myself wondering whether the book was reflecting "views of the times" or the author's own conservative social and religious views with passages like this:

"Hadn't she known, since she was a child, that only in obedience could there be peace and contentment for a woman? And hadn't she always known that peace was as much as a woman dared to covet." [sic]


"Like all women, she simply had a task to do while the men of the town decided her fate. Chalem [a 10-year-old boy] felt a sense of satisfaction that this was the way life was."

And then there are vague sentences like, "Altah made an airy gesture of reassurance." (What the heck IS that? Cannot picture it at all.) And obvious observations like, "The water was tepid and it held the scent of the bottle, but it was wet." (Thank goodness for that! Dry water is the pits.)

Still, the book was readable enough, and the action moved along at a nice pace. Characterization of secondary characters was flat, but Ruth felt fully developed, and the relationship between her and her mother-in-law Naomi was surprisingly nuanced. It felt awkward when the author forced exact quotes from the Biblical story of Ruth into her characters' mouths. But it was a quick read, and women are given so little "screen-time" in the Bible that this book could be enjoyable for someone who hungers to delve deeper into what little we know. I think Lois T. Henderson truly cares for her subject matter, and the religious messaging isn't too heavy-handed. Not something I'd enthusiastically recommend, but not something I'd tell someone not to read, either. Lukewarm all around.