The Little Way of Ruthie Leming follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteacher. He was also struck by the grace and courage with which his sister dealt with the disease that eventually took her life. In Louisiana for Ruthie's funeral in the fall of 2011, Dreher began to wonder whether the ordinary life Ruthie led in their country town was in fact a path of hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness, concealed within the modest life of a mother and teacher. In order to explore this revelation, Dreher and his wife decided to leave Philadelphia, move home to help with family responsibilities and have their three children grow up amidst the rituals that had defined his family for five generations - Mardi Gras, L.S.U. football games, and deer hunting.
As David Brooks poignantly described Dreher's journey homeward in a recent New York Times column, Dreher and his wife Julie "decided to accept the limitations of small-town life in exchange for the privilege of being part of a community."
©2013 Rod Dreher (P)2013 Hachette Audio
Although the book is set in St. Francisville, Louisiana, the book has little southern flair. It has more of a small town feel. It is as if the author wrote the book and throw in the deep south references for dramatic appeal.
The book portrays Ruth as a saint. She is always doing for others. She stayed while her brother went north to find himself and his career. She remains upbeat throughout her difficult days dealing with cancer. She is almost too real to be true.
What struck me most was the masks everyone wore. Ruth didn't see a doctor until the cancer had progressed to terminal. She refused to know the details of her disease. She hide behind the mask of denial until it claimed her life.
Rather then dealing with her issues with her brother, she died living some festering wounds that poisoned his nieces. Each hide behind their masks until it was too late to heal the rift.
Their parents hid their true feelings. After Ruth dies, her brother moves back to their home town with his family only to find they were still the outsiders. His father lays on him a revelation that throws his decision to stay in limbo.
It is a good book in that it makes you realize now is the time to make peace with family and friends. We never know what path life will take, so we must live in harmony with all.
The reader has a lisp but as he continues reading it is less noticeable.
If you are looking for a light read, this is it.
Perhaps as more reviews accumulate (than the small statistical sampling as of my review), the book will settle in with solid 4's across the board as it deserves, though I think that the author's narration is not only a 5, but a reason to listen to the audio over the printed text. I am not reading the lower reviews, apprehensive that I will be tempted to refute them. With even sketchy knowledge of Rod Dreher's professional bio, his transition, even metamorphosis, is impactful enough. His skillful and surprisingly vulnerable translation of the family history and his sister's illness and death into text is a bravura performance. The book is really an achievement, even for an uber-intelligent professional. I return to the narration--if a prospective reader is looking for yet another tiresome performance attempting to translate a book to some kind of audio-only stage play, or another reading with melodrama that makes taking a drink from a water fountain sound more like a baptism with holy water, move on. The low key narration is a wonder, in fact perfect. More, more.
Yes. The insights into the essential and important elements of life worth bear repeating.
Rod. His transition from escapee to returning home was remarkable in our day and age.
The voice reading is amazing, placing you in the small Louisiana community of Star Hill in a way simply reading could not do.
Definitely made me cry, and also made me laugh. Ruthie's life was a profound expression of the lives we ought all to strive for while we can.
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