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The Upper Room (A Mama Ruby Novel) Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in 1985, Mary Monroe's engaging debut novel, The Upper Room, features Ruby Montgomery, an obese, indomitable character who steals her best friend's baby daughter and flees to rural Florida, where she establishes herself as an almost mythical figure. The dialogue and setting are reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston, but the story has a bizarre, violent edge … la Stephen King. Fantastic and exaggerated, the novel may seem dated in its descriptions of race and sex, but it is a candid portrayal of the cold-blooded yet fascinating Mama Ruby.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mama Ruby is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, with healing hands and an inconceivably vengeful spirit. After successfully bringing her best friend's stillborn baby to life, she claims the child as her own and runs away to a migrant settlement in the Everglades. Mama Ruby's ever-increasing girth and unhealthy dependence on her daughter, Maureen, cause her to make choices and decisions that are both troubling and foolish. Mama Ruby makes sure that Maureen is treated special by giving her the upper room of the house. It becomes Maureen's special place and is off-limits to most people, especially men. As Maureen grows into a beautiful woman, she begins to have desires of a life outside of Mama Ruby's watchful eye and of a city far away. It takes an unthinkable series of events for Maureen and Mama Ruby to accept the other's ways and needs. A chilling story that is bound to astound Monroe's fans. Lillian Lewis
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: A Mama Ruby Novel (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dafina; Reprint edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0758267347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758267344
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on September 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a novelist, I always appreciate the ability of an author to create in-depth characters. Mary Monroe truly has the gift. Ruby is one character that I will never, ever forget. Ruby is an emotionally disturbed, obese, Christian woman who has more issues than 8 or 9 characters in other novels have put together.
She killed her husband, the father of her son Virgil, after he tried to run off with a white woman, she "chatizes" anyone who gets in her way. In other words, she does them in and buries their bodies wherever she can find a vacant spot. While she professes to love the Lord and attends church regularly having grown up as the daughter of a preacher, Ruby manages to convince several people that she is the devil incarnate outside of church hours.
After her childhood best friend, Othella, has a stillborn baby, Ruby who served as her midwife, is about to bury the little girl when she starts moving. Ruby has always wanted a daughter and jumps on the opportunity to raise the little girl who she names Maureen.
Ruby flees her hometown and finds a home in the Goons, outside Miami, hoping that Othella never discovers that her daughter is still alive. She makes a special place for Maureen upstairs and calls it "The Upper Room." No one is allowed in the room with the exception of Maureen, Ruby, and Virgil. Ruby believes that if any other man entered the room, he would bring the devil with him and turn Maureen into a whore. Ruby knows about being a whore firsthand because, even though she is extremely unattractive, she was allowed to work in a brothel in a two-for-one deal along with Othella.
There is just so much to this novel but I will not give anything more away.
Read more ›
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on October 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Mary Monroe's novel, The Upper Room, Mama Ruby dominates as the central character that is so religious, malicious, and comical. She and her supporting cast are so drama-filled that their dysfunctional lives provide the reader with a page-turning/must-keep-reading tale.
Mama Ruby is an obese, misguided crazed, crucifix wearing, switchblade carrying, self-professed "Christian" woman with healing hands that manipulates and controls everyone around her. She betrays her closest friend in the world, Othella, by taking Othella's once-thought stillborn daughter, Maureen, and raises her as her own. She sequesters the child in a sanctified "Upper Room" that has restrictions on who can enter it and vows that Maureen will never leave her. The story includes a colorful cast of characters and takes us through Maureen's life with the townsfolk of Goons, FL and her desires and eventual escape into the sanity of the "real world". Along the way, there are many 'episodes' that keep the plot flowing till the end.
This review does not give the novel enough praise. The author provided vivid imagery, dialogue, and solid pacing to make this an enjoyable, suspenseful read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Allison Hobbs on June 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although this book was orginally published in 1985, the same year I discovered Zora Neale Hurston and a time period when I was ravenous for African American writers, surprisingly, I somehow missed this one. But better late than never.

I consider Mary Monroe's writing style comparable to literary greats such as Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. Mama Ruby is a character I will never forget. Mama Ruby is an obese woman who quotes scripture in one breath and curses like a sailor in the next. She carries a switch blade and a cross, symbols of her conflict with good and evil. According to Mama Ruby, Satan and the Lord are having a tug-of-war over her soul. Mama Ruby doesn't look for trouble but is ever vigilant, expecting trouble to come her way. And when it does... Whew! With her switchblade, shotgun, and sometimes her bare hands, she "chastizes," feeling not a bit of remorse, those who bring trouble into her life, i.e., bill collectors, an unfaithful husband, etc.

After "chastizing" them, she demands that her young son, Virgil dig a hole and bury the bodies.

She betrays Othella, her best friend in the world when she steals Othella's newborn daughter. She leaves town in the middle of the night and raises the beautiful child, named Maureen as her own in the a rural area called Goons in Florida.

Maureen's designated bedroom is a special and sanctified place called the Upper Room. Mama Ruby plans to keep Maureen in the Upper Room for the rest of her life.

The colorful cast of misfits who surround Mama Ruby, often participating in her deadly escapades are almost as memorable as Mama Ruby.

I read God Don't Like Ugly and thoroughly enjoyed it; but I give author Mary Monroe major props for this masterpiece and plan to read everything she's written.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pearli on February 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Let me first start off by sayng that I have read previous books by Mrs. Monroe and have thoroughly enjoyed them - - - - UNTIL NOW!!! I read one of the other reports that warned of the writing style, but it still did not prepare me for it. It took me over 3 weeks to read this book when a good book normally takes me a day or two -->TOPS!!! I have read the dialect in both God Don't like Ugly and God Still Don't like Ugly, but this dialect was really out there. I had to re-read certain parts of it just so that I'd understand what was being said.

I really did not like this particular book for several reasons but the main one was because of the way it ended. Maureen never had the opportunity to find out the true story of her parentage. The writer never allowed Othello to tell her, nor did Mama Ruby or Virgil tell her and I think in order to break that spell over her or that bad luck streak that she assumed she had, someone should have told her. Not even after Mama Ruby died did Virgil tell her. And the way she treated the girl like a possession as a mother turned me off. I am hesitant about reading Red Light Wives after reading this one. I am just glad that someone loaned this one to me because had I paid for it I would have been crazy mad. This criticque is not to disparage Mrs. Monroe, only to offer my version of the book itself.
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