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Mourning Ruby (Dunmore, Helen) Hardcover – February 23, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Dunmore, Helen
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1st Printing edition (February 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399151486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399151484
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,630,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Rebecca, the narrator of most of Dunmore's fine, almost unbearably sad eighth novel (after 2003's Ice Cream), shares a flat with Joe in London, she begins to enjoy the pleasures of friendship and family for the first time in her life: she was abandoned as a baby and adopted by a couple remarkably unsuitable for parenting. Joe, a historian interested in Stalin, introduces her to simple pleasures and shows her that loneliness need not be permanent. And it's through Joe that she meets Adam, a neonatologist who becomes her husband and the father of their daughter, Ruby ("For the first time, I was tied to someone by blood"). Given the book's title, Ruby's death is no surprise (though it's still heartbreaking without being melodramatic), and Dunmore plumbs the consequences of loss: How does one mourn, and then accept, the unacceptable? Numbed by Ruby's death, Rebecca drifts away from Adam, finding diversion in a job as an assistant to a hotelier, Mr. Damiano; Adam buries himself in his work with premature babies. Ambitiously, Dunmore complements this tragic narrative with two other stories, one autobiographical, told by Mr. Damiano, about growing up in a circus where his parents were trapeze artists, and one told by Joe, a work of fiction set during WWI about a man and a woman who could be his and Rebecca's ancestors. Rebecca's own story isn't told linearly, so these narrative asides aren't as distracting as they sound. And they are critical to the author's main theme: that narrative is a key to understanding and to acceptance. This is that rare novel, an intensely emotional, fiercely intelligent story, fiction with the power to offer redemption.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When Rebecca's and Adam's daughter, Ruby, dies in a playground accident, their lives are forever changed. In Dunmore's elegant hands, such a simple and sorrowful synopsis is transformed into an elegiac tale of unbearable suffering and unexpected redemption as lyrical and lush as life itself. As an abandoned infant and unwanted adoptee, Rebecca spun romantic stories of her past to compensate for the meager facts of her existence. Only in her role as Ruby's mother did she find her true identity, and when that vanishes, it falls to her old friend, Joe, a writer, and her enigmatic boss, Mr. Damiano, to present her with new stories that will allow her to once more create a life without Ruby. Dunmore portrays Rebecca's palpable grief with a poignant and powerful empathy, an anguish so strong that it envelops the reader in its enormity. Yet Rebecca's story is one to be savored, one whose beauty is haunting and whose message is hopeful. Told with abundant grace and exquisite sensitivity, this is a book to fall in love with, to hold in your heart like a cherished memory. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Readers who enjoy complex novels will enjoy this one, as will readers who relish poetic language.
Ruby's death is the only main theme that continues throughout the book, but it's hard to connect to because so many other stories are swarming around it.
Anita Kelley
Rebecca lives a blissful existence with Joe and Adam and eventually gives birth to beautiful, red-haired, Ruby.
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Stories --- embarrassing, tragic or simply amusing --- provide hours of entertainment at reunions and other family gatherings. Although many of us may take our family stories for granted, they often make up a large part of our personal history and our sense of identity. In her new novel, MOURNING RUBY, Helen Dunmore astutely comments on the power of family stories to provide strength, hope and even healing.
Rebecca, the novel's central figure, keenly feels the lack of family stories shaping her own life. Left as a baby in a shoebox outside an Italian restaurant, Rebecca has no real family and no family stories. Only as a young adult can Rebecca make a semblance of a family with her friend and roommate, Joe, an up-and-coming historian who creates a home with Rebecca. His love for her remains platonic, though, since Rebecca has adopted him as a brother rather than as a lover.
Rebecca later marries Joe's friend Adam and has a daughter, Ruby. Rebecca's connection to Ruby is even more dramatic than the traditional mother-child bond. At last, in Ruby, Rebecca has a family: "For the first time, I was tied to someone by blood." Rebecca's visceral connection to Ruby makes Ruby's sudden death, described in gut-wrenching detail, even more heartbreaking. I would defy anyone who has a child to read the account of Ruby's death without shedding a tear.
Torn apart by their misery in the wake of Ruby's death, Rebecca and Adam separate, both throwing themselves into their work. In the meantime, Joe is a continent away, fruitlessly trying to conduct historical research while living with a woman he does not love. Rebecca is haunted by dreams of Ruby in life and in death, and Adam, a neonatal specialist, seems to try to reverse the past with each premature baby whose life he saves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Losing a child is like losing yourself-and for a while that is exactly what happens to Rebecca. She started out life as a foundling, left in a shoebox in the alley behind Vittorio's Italian restaurant. Due to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin, according to her rescuer, she is discovered before becoming food for the rats and subsequently adopted. Unfortunately, she never establishes familial ties with her adopted family and, as an adult, struggles to make a place for herself in the world that feels like home.

Rebecca's life is changed for the better when she meets and moves in with Joe. Not her lover, but definitely loved, he changes her life for the good. He even introduces her to her future husband, Adam. Rebecca lives a blissful existence with Joe and Adam and eventually gives birth to beautiful, red-haired, Ruby. For the first time in her life, Rebecca is connected to someone by blood, and she finally begins to feel that she is not alone in the world.

Fate, however, has other plans for Rebecca. Ruby dies. Rebecca and Adam are both lost in grief and end up losing each other. They slog through their days trying to stifle their grief, Adam as a neonatologist, seeking ways he could have saved Ruby in every premature baby he treats, and Rebecca as the steadfast assistant of a wealthy hotelier, Mr. Damiano. Her beneficent boss sees Rebecca's grief and finds a way to help her re-invent her life's story.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
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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