West’s ambitious, keenly observant debut follows two friends growing up on Chicago’s South Side, where the cycle of domestic violence repeats over generations. When Ruby King’s mother, Alice, is murdered, Ruby loses her protector, and her best friend, Layla Potter, works diligently to fill the role. West unfolds the map of their neighborhood and their families’ connections in chapters alternating between the present and the 1960s, when Ruby’s father, Lebanon, the child of his mother Sara’s rape by her own father, is abused by her. Traumatized, Lebanon becomes abusive in turn on his own family. As a teenager, Lebanon’s childhood friend Jackson, Layla’s father, was responsible for another teenage boy’s death, but Lebanon is imprisoned for manslaughter in his stead. Freed after five years, Lebanon starts blackmailing Jackson, now pastor of Calvary Hope Christian Church. (In a remarkably effective literary device, West has the church building itself “narrate” some of the chapters.) As Layla vows to rescue Ruby from Lebanon’s rage and self-harm after Alice’s murder—especially after Layla dreams of three mysterious matriarchs insisting “Go!”—plot twists lead to a climactic confrontation in Ruby’s grandmother’s Tennessee home. Despite some excessive melodrama and repetitive dialogue, West’s tale of grace, redemption, and hope would translate handily to the screen. This should enjoy wide popularity with book groups. (June)
In the midst of widespread protests and calls to end racial injustice, the conversations and understanding tackled in Saving Ruby King are all significant reflections of this country’s reality today.” – Parade Magazine
“Family, friendship, secrets…this rich, suspenseful page-turner has it all.” – Woman’s World
“Incorporating compelling perspectives, this is a powerful story of family, faith and friendship.” – MS. Magazine
"Saving Ruby King is a stunning force of a novel that has everything anyone could want in a family saga—honey-dipped prose, strikingly human characters, and a satisfying, soul-stirring conclusion that will stay with me for a long, long time."– Zakiya Harris, author of THE OTHER BLACK GIRL
"Told with teeth and tenderness, SAVING RUBY KING is a surprising, pedal-down debut that explores what happens when the fabrics of family, faith, and friendship snag on violent machinations of the heart. Redemption and survival share a pew with reckoning and hope here, all tangled up with the ties that bind. Catherine Adel West gifts us Chicago, the black church, and a choir of flawed, wonderfully complicated characters who flash fresh with every turn of the page, who stand against the wind, who won't go down without a fight."– Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Whiskey & Ribbons and So We Can Glow
"What an astonishing book. Catherine Adel West breathes life into violence and mayhem like a poet on a new day. These are the stories we need to hear: voices of hope in a wilderness of pain."– Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder and The Butterfly Girl
"West is a bold, exciting new voice in fiction. With honesty and compassion, she brings readers beyond the headlines into the real south side of Chicago where love, church, and family abide. She makes us think not only about saving Ruby King, but about finding our own redemption as we save ourselves individually and collectively. In this assured debut, West deftly breathes life into this community with characters you'll cry with and root for long after the last page."
– Nancy Johnson, author of The Kindest Lie
"[An] Ambitious, keenly observant debut... West's tale of grace, redemption, and hope would translate handily to the screen. This should enjoy wide popularity with book groups."
– Publishers Weekly
"West uses a fresh approach to covering not only several decades of family history, but also complex themes including the ways in which close communities can nourish and harm their members; how friendships and family ties can hold intimacy and distance; the way misunderstandings and trauma can pass down the generations; and the difference between a relationship with God and a church. The characters, language, and plot come together for a story full of hard truths, insight, and warmth...a daring, dynamic story.A multilayered love letter to South Side Chicago’s African American faith-based community."– Kirkus Reviews
“West delivers her debut with an honesty that jumps off the pages and into the laps of her readers. Telling Ruby's story from multiple points of view, West writes with a precision that makes the story sing, with clear language and poetic imagery.”
“A story of intrigue and heartbreaking family secrets… A fresh look into the church community of Chicago’s South Side with a bold female perspective.”
– Library Journal
DEBUT When Ruby King's mother is killed in her home on Chicago's South Side, the lead suspect is her husband, Lebanon, who's known to be violent. Ruby flees, fearing that she'll be her father's next victim. Her best friend, Layla, is eager to find her, but Layla's father, Rev. Jackson Potter, refuses to let Layla go looking for Ruby. Layla longs to leave the church behind and move forward with her life, not as the pastor's daughter. This is a story of intrigue and heartbreaking family secrets from the past that tie together the King and Potter families. Debut author West presents the Calvary Hope Christian Church as a character, with its own chapters. Calvary speaks its wisdom and weighs in on its members that it holds close and dear, from the past to the present. This literary choice creates a deeper understanding of the novel's setting. VERDICT A fresh look into the church community of Chicago's South Side with a bold female perspective. Does the church offer sanctuary or bury harmful secrets within its stately walls? [See Prepub Alert, 12/2/19.]—Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC
After Ruby King’s mother, Alice, is murdered in their home on the South Side of Chicago, Layla, Ruby's best friend, tries to rescue her from despair.
While looking for answers about her best friend's mother's death, 20-something Layla unravels a knot of secrets that has tangled her family with her friend's for generations. As young black women, Ruby and Layla confront enormous challenges, from racism and gentrification to their family's expectations. Layla’s father, Jackson, serves as the pastor of their church, where Alice, Ruby's mother, spent most of her time. Everyone in the church community knew Ruby’s father, Lebanon, abused Alice and suspects he might have killed her. While at odds, Jackson and Lebanon both rule their families as traditional patriarchs, and after Alice’s violent death, Layla must defy her father's authority in her determination to help Ruby. Debut author West plays with multiple perspectives and timelines, making for a rich tale. Ruby, Layla, Jackson, and Lebanon are all compelling point-of-view characters, but the real star is the Calvary Hope Christian Church, which reveals some of the most startling moments. By endowing Calvary Hope with consciousness, West uses a fresh approach to covering not only several decades of family history, but also complex themes including the ways in which close communities can nourish and harm their members; how friendships and family ties can hold intimacy and distance; the way misunderstandings and trauma can pass down the generations; and the difference between a relationship with God and a church. The characters, language, and plot come together for a story full of hard truths, insight, and warmth. Every so often, the novel veers into melodrama, but overall it delivers a daring, dynamic story.
A multilayered love letter to South Side Chicago’s African American faith-based community.