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Mourning Ruby
by Helen Dunmore

Category: Fiction / General
294 pages; ISBN: 0425200191

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


Mourning Ruby
Helen Dunmore
Berkley, Feb 2005, $14.00, 294 pp.
ISBN: 0425200191

Over three decades may have passed, but the pivotal moment in Rebecca’s life still haunts her. Her biological mom left her as a newborn in a shoebox in the alley behind Vittori’s restaurant. An onion saves her from becoming rat meal. Her adoptive parents had no idea how to cope with a colic baby that did not sleep through the night; over the years they fed and dressed the kid, but were unable to show any love or affection towards the alley brat.

As an adult Rebecca rooms with historian Joe, who treats her like a younger sibling and introduces her to her future husband neonatologist Adam. They have a daughter Ruby, who makes Rebecca feel human for the first time in her life. The next five years are terrific as she and Adam shower Ruby with love. When Ruby dies in a car accident, Rebecca returns to her life of nothingness. Adam leaves her, but she meets Mr. Damiano, who hires her as his assistant while Joe tries to provide her solace with a World War I story about a single mother vowing to raise her child though it means working the brothels at the front.

MOURNING RUBY is a poignant, but melancholy character study. The title protagonist lives an extreme roller coaster life starting with the box, followed by the loveless early years; a fine interlude with a friend and a lover; the crescendo starring Ruby; replaced by deep grief and hiding in a “box”; and finally friends trying to help her move on. Helen Dunmore provides a deep look that human means grieving for loved ones but also those who love you are there for you even when you reject them.

Harriet Klausner


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