Ruby & Roland

Milkweed. Sept. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9781571311320. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781571319968. F
The year is 1910, and Ruby Drake’s parents are charming, well-educated, and devoted to their daughter and each other. Their sudden deaths bring change to young Ruby’s life, as she is sent to live as an orphan on a distant farm. Ruby willingly assumes her role, learning how to do house chores, work in the garden, and care for the chickens. When she is 15, she’s sent to another farm in Minnesota, where her kind mistress Emma becomes something of a second mother. Ruby is focused on working hard for her new “family” and reading Keats and Whitman in the evenings, when she’s asked to assist neighbor Roland and his sickly wife, Dora at their farm across the road. Roland is young, and Ruby is soon entranced with his genuine passion for the land as well as his uncommon beauty. When tragedy befalls Dora, Ruby is not sure if she can hide her passion for Roland any longer, even if it causes heartbreak and scandal.
VERDICT Sullivan (Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse) creates a story worthy of comparison to Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Recommended for historical and women’s fiction fans

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