The Book of Ruth (Cassettes)

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Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel, this exquisite book confronts real-life issues of alienation and violence from which the author creates a stunning testament to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and love.

A passionate coming-of-age story of an uneducated small-town girl with far more romance in her soul than she can ever hope to express in her life.

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Overview

Winner of the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel, this exquisite book confronts real-life issues of alienation and violence from which the author creates a stunning testament to the human capacity for mercy, compassion and love.

A passionate coming-of-age story of an uneducated small-town girl with far more romance in her soul than she can ever hope to express in her life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Feeling unnoticed beneath the looming figure of her brother, whose genius will surely get him out of their smothering small-town life of poverty and tough times, Ruth Dahl has seen her share of sorrow. Her penchant for insecurity and self-blame nearly ruin her -- but just in time, Ruth undergoes an incredible transformation.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her first novel, Hamilton takes on a challenge too large for her talents. Ruth, the heroine, tells her story in the first person, but her limited point of view cannot do it full justice. Born and raised in small-town Illinois by a mother whose life keeps splintering, Ruth blames herself for her troubles, from the cold-blooded brother who always outsmarts her to the ne'er-do-well husband who nearly destroys her. Considered slow-witted, she has a cussed strength. Like the biblical Ruth, the Midwesterner is loyal to her wounded family, and has a talent for "stepping into other people's skin'' while ignoring her own needs. Ruth's gradual self-discovery is often moving; her sharp-tongued vulnerability and whole-hearted hell-raising win our sympathy and admiration. But her transformation from victim to heroine is less convincing: Ruth's intelligence soars when she sneers, not when she mourns her errors. Another problem is uncertain plotting, with static stretches marked by obvious foreshadowings of events to come. The final violence that erupts seems exotic, not an inevitable product of clashing characters. Hamilton evokes Ruth's character marvelously, but others as seen by her are incompletely rendered.
Library Journal
When a Wall Street Journal writer observed that "simple tales of life and sorrow in the heartland are red hot," he wasn't writing about Hamilton's (A Map of the World, Audio Reviews, LJ 7/95) novel, but he might as well have been. Ruth, an Illinois farm girl, gives a first-person account of her life in an effort to make sense of what has happened to her and her tragedy-prone family. The language of this novel, by turns naturalistic, romantic, and occasionally humorous, has a freshness and originality of expression, and Mare Winningham's vital and poignant reading makes Ruth come alive.
--Jacqueline Seewald, Red Bank Regional High School Library, New Jersey
Library Journal
When a Wall Street Journal writer observed that "simple tales of life and sorrow in the heartland are red hot," he wasn't writing about Hamilton's (A Map of the World, Audio Reviews, LJ 7/95) novel, but he might as well have been. Ruth, an Illinois farm girl, gives a first-person account of her life in an effort to make sense of what has happened to her and her tragedy-prone family. The language of this novel, by turns naturalistic, romantic, and occasionally humorous, has a freshness and originality of expression, and Mare Winningham's vital and poignant reading makes Ruth come alive.
--Jacqueline Seewald, Red Bank Regional High School Library, New Jersey
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671576479
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 2/1/1997
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 cassettes, 4 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 4.06 (w) x 7.03 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Hamilton
Jane Hamilton

JANE HAMILTON is the author of The Book of Ruth, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction, A Map of the World, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and named one of the top ten books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, the Miami Herald, and People magazine; Disobedience; and The Short History of a Prince. She lives in Rochester, Wisconsin.

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Read an Excerpt

"I learned slowly, that if you don't look at the world with perfect vision, you 're bound to get yourself cooked "

Having come within an inch of her life, Ruth Dahl is determined to take a good look at it -- to figure out whether, in fact, she's to blame for the mess.

Pegged the loser in a small-town family that doesn't have much going for it in the first place, Ruth grows up in the shadow of her brilliant brother, trying to hold her own in a world of poverty and hard edges. Matt's brain is his ticket out of Honey Creek. Ruth, without options, cleaves instead to her tough, half-crazy mother, May, and eventually to Ruby, the sweet but slightly deranged young man she loves, marries, and supports. When the precarious household erupts in violence, Ruth is the only one who can piece their story together -- and she gets at the truth in a manner at once ferocious, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

In this powerful, incandescent novel, Jane Hamilton has worked a miracle: she has given voice to a young woman you have passed on the street a thousand times. Perhaps you have never noticed her, hut the next time you see her, you will know who she is.

Passionate in her commitment to life, Ruth is a stunning testament to the human capacity for mercy, compassion, and love. The Book of Ruth is a magnificent audio experience.

Copyright © 1997 by Jane Hamilton


Performance copyright 1997 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.


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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 41 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 13, 2013

    One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The story isn

    One of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

    The story isn't pretty of course, it's sad.  Ruth's life is sad; Ruth and May and Ruby all broken people, and don't know how to do it, don't know how to live with grace or ease.  Awkward, all of them, and cruelty in them all, weaknesses.

    But I love Ruth.  No, really -- I love her.  She's one of my all-time favorite heroines.  She's no comic book heroine, she's not perfect by any definition you'd ever find.  Except maybe as a storyteller, getting it all down for us, telling us about it all.  Completely unconscious of her greatness, words and phrases of simple beauty come out of her pen.

    Hamilton is brilliant.  The book she's crafted here -- her first book out of the gate, too -- it's a gem.  I think of Heller, his amazing characterizations -- how I loved Catch22!  Because he painted his characters with such intimacy, is why; yes, it's a very funny book, and a great book, but my greatest love of it is reading the characters he's created, and given to us.

    Hamilton is as good.  People in reviews I've read go on about how sad it is, it's a depressing story, it doesn't have a Hollywood ending, etc and etc.  Hey, it's Saturday evening as I key this in, get yourself to your local cineplex and watch some Hollywood garbage, a perfect smile kissing fake breasts and both of them walking off into the sunshine.

    Meanwhile, back here in the real world, there are real, live, breathing people, doing what they can, as they can.  That's what Hamilton gives us -- real people.  Ruth.  May.  Ruby.  Miss Finch, telling Ruth she had "good thoughts.".  Elmer.   The Rev .  The cruel, cruel children in her schools.  Aunt Sid.  Daisy, for chrissake.  Matt.  On and on, one after another, Hamilton takes us right there, we're with these people, she gets us right into the rooms with them, and the pastures, and the school rooms, and the old house that binds and binds

    And Hamilton gives us pure art, her turns of phrase just flat amazing, the turns of her story every bit as good.  She tells us out of Ruth's mouth, in Ruth's character, in Ruth's tongue, but in the turns of her story she puts stories into Ruth's life, the blind tapes from Miss Finch, which gives Ruth words and metaphors, and Ruth being so shy and so isolated and insular the words are simple, the story, while large, told simply.

    I'm from Illinois, a brother trades, shows, breeds Belgian draft horses, lives not far from where Hamilton put this story.  The people are real.  That town -- Honey Creek -- it's dead on the money, Hamilton nailed it.  I haven't lived in those towns -- no way I'd want to -- but I know them well, and Hamilton has those people pegged.  It rings true.

    I've given this book to people who aren't afraid to look life in the eye, who love beauty even if it's not prettiness, can understand that difference, don't need to be lied to.  It was passed my way by a woman I trust totally, a great art heart, and I've since bought it for others who don't need a burnished Vermeer or soft purple Monet, people who get Van Gogh and Braque, who aren't put off or uncomfortable standing in front of a Hans Hoffman painting.

    I don't know what else I can tell you.  Read this book.  Or don't, if you need pretty.  But if you love beautiful, this is a great place to look -- beauty lives in Hamilton's words.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    OK, but probably wouldn't want to read again...

    Not one that I will read again, but it does make you think about the nature of people. None of these characters are completely likable or completely evil...A reminder that humanity is rarely black or white, good or evil, right or wrong, but rather many devastating shades of gray.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2008

    this book is good.

    i think this book is good. I liked it, I enjoyed reading this novel because I was getting to know someone who had it hard and still had a chance to do some good and though she may have lost somethings like her family, and husband, she gained a new life, a new start and a new chance at happiness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2008

    Disappointing Book on An Important Subject

    I read this book after it was required reading in my daughter's English class and the reviews I had read were good. I was disappointed. There is no doubt that the subject was interesting. There are important lessons to be learned from Ruth's life. However, the writing could have been better. The story was told in the first person but a lot of what Ruth was thinking was in language that was too sophisticated for her. When that happened, it was unrealistic. Also, I think telling the story from her point of view also limited what we could learn about some of the other characters, like Matt and even May. Ruth did not really understand them and so we do not get full pictures of them either. Overall, the book was okay but could have been a lot better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2005

    Engrossing yet very depressing

    One of the best first novels I have read. But be sure to do so when your spirits are high. It is too depressing for a cold winter's read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2004

    Classic style

    The book of Ruth has a fitting title, it has a 'biblical', almost martyrlike heroine who is ever tolerant and forgiving,yet, the reader can feel that Ruth possesses more strength than even she is aware of. The writing style is poetic without being too flowery (hard to achieve)...and what I like most is: the book is realistic. Sometimes a hero or heroine, just survives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    The BEST of a long time!!!

    This book will have you going and not want to put it down. It has romance, deceit, tragedy, and everything else you can imagine. This will be one book you will finish, maybe in less than a couple of days depending on how much you liked it!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2004

    A definite page turner

    i read this book within hours on vacation. i enjoyed the plot and it was well written. i highly recommend this book if you like to read a love story gone sour.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2004

    Hauntingly, disturbingly beautiful

    Reading Ms. Hamilton's characters made you feel like you were belong with them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2003

    Can Ruth be Saved?

    It is an engrossing book, but very depressing. I thought Aunt Sid might be Ruth's salvation, but the ending of the book seems to indicate that Ruth is going to continue her mother's self defeating behavior and reject any help from Aunt Sid. This stance shows Ruth's unreality as she is completly unequipped to care for herself and two children. The book was very frustrating as Ruth often had things figured out, wanted to tell what she thought to others, but was never able to do it. For example, if Aunt Sid had known the true conditions of Ruth's household, she probably could have done something, but Ruth presented her with fantasy and only when there was tragedy did Aunt Sid learn what had been going on. I think this would be a good book for Book Club discussion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2003

    Finally A GOOD read!

    I have to say that this was such an incredible book and definitely something I am going to have to read again. I was so tired of picking up pointless and boring books that I really didn't expect much from this book and was absolutely amazed by it. My jaw just dropped reading parts of this book. Truely an incredible book. I wish there was a sequal. I'm interested what would've happened to Ruth, Justy and the new baby, and even Ruby. After I finished this book I had to go back and re-read the first chapter. Took awhile to get into it but was so so so worth it!! Highly recommed this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2002

    Depressing First Novel

    I found the Book of Ruth extremely depressing, although it was well-written. Hamilton's book, "A Map of the World," has a much better plot and offered some hope at the end. There is enough horror in the real world without having to read novels like Book of Ruth. I read it because I am in a book discussion group and this was selected. Only one woman in the group liked it. Incidentally I have a master's degree and my undergraduate degree is in English literature, so I am well read. If this were not an Oprah selection it would not have been successful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2002

    Hats Off to Ruth and Jane Hamilton!!!

    The Book of Ruth took me by surprise in so many ways but the intiguing and very different way she saw the the world and events in her life were what kept me turning pages. Jane Hamilton was able to develop a character with limited education and experiences who was quite believable and whose narration continually aroused my interest.I found this character to be full of hope and determination in a world where others would have found only despair.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2001

    Enthralling and poignant

    I was so deeply entrenched in this novel from the first page that I immediately felt like part of the story. Ms. Hamilton's writing style is so pure and honest that the voice of Ruth was realistic and captivating. The novel is so well written that I found myself chuckling out loud at some of Ruth's romantic and idealistic notions of the people and world around her; yet I was also moved to tears by the underlying theme of perpetuating a family cycle of emotional and verbal abuse as well as learned insecurity and expectation for tragedy as the norm in one's life. Although Ruth is portrayed as a rather simple character from the first chapter, the reader is able to grasp her coming of age as brilliantly written by Ms. Hamilton. Despite Ruth's simple language and use of sentences without complexity one is amazingly able to understand the depth and personality of every character in this novel. The pacing of this book enables one to easily gain insight into Ruth as a child, adolescent and young adult without any gaps in the storytelling. The range of emotions I unexpectedly felt while reading this book surprised me with every turn of the page. Without giving away too much of the story, the events that transpire are shocking yet at the same time expected almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. This story still haunts me despite finishing it days ago; I have not yet delved into another novel because I am still feeling the need to process 'The Book of Ruth' and ponder my feelings about such a wonderful, although not uplifting book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2001

    thought provoking but depressing

    I read this book book because it was on an approved list of novels to read for a literature class. I found it very slow moving and hard to get into. Although it is depressing it is a very believable story that causes a person to stop and think about life as you realise this story portrays what happens in real life. I struggled through the book and all of sudden the end was there it exploded and was over. Too graphic. Heart wrenching story that is good for people to read to understand and feel what Ruth, the victim and hero, feels. I really would not recomend it though. There are much better books out there to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2001

    Amazing!

    I loved Hamilton's writing style. The way she brings her characters to life with realistic details, her dry humor and her raw and bold vision of daily life makes this novel as impressive as the stories of relatives. It's as though we know that it must have happened to someone. The climax surprised me the way life sometimes does. It has been more than a year that I read it, and I am still with my mouth open in disbelief. I keep on asking myself 'how could it happen?' and then I say 'but of course...'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2001

    DO NOT USE AS BOOK COASTER

    To say that this book changed my life would be an exaggeration,but it stayed with me while i was in the midst of reading it,when i read the last word on the final page, and it is still with me,three years later.It is the kind of book that I would recommend to all of my friends, but never lend for fear that I would not get it back.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2001

    Good, NOT great

    I read this book because I had nothing else to read. I wouldn't have chosen this title if I knew what it was really about. It was nice to find out about all Ruth's life, but-?? I don't know. AND WHAT WAS UP WITH MAY?? The hole time she acted like she hated Ruth. I think she had an unhealthy realationship with Matt. AND I NEVER LIKED RUBY! For those of you who haven't read it yet, I'm not gonna say what happens but I always hated him. He changed the whole rythym of the story. Anyway, It was good, but I wouldn't recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2000

    haunting

    woah. This book is so well written and yet so deeply disturbing,it reverberates in the mind long after it is shelved. You spend the whole book waiting for the big shoe to drop...and when it does, it goes through the floor and leaves you open-mouthed staring at the pages, wondering if you read everything right. It is a true tragedy and gives a hint of resolution but almost not enough.This isn't a sequel-type book and you are left feeling like Ruth will survive, but also feeling like maybe you should say a prayer, too, just in case. Excellent writing. Good read. But dark. Very Delores-Claiborneish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2000

    Different but eye opening

    This was my first Jane Hamilton book. I really enjoyed the story and the way she brought the characters over. There were times I wanted to go into the book and shake Ruth to make her open her eyes. This is a must read because I feel this happens everyday but we close our eyes to it. I look forward to reading anouther Jane Hamilton book in the future.

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