Road Trip Book: Oprah Favorite in Illinois

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Country Store Illinois

Book: The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Really good fiction can take your breath away with the truth of it.  The magic of story telling sometimes creates a view of the world so real that you wonder how the author got inside your mind and saw with your eyes.

In fact, Jane Hamilton uses the image of getting inside the skin of another person in order to tell their story in The Book of Ruth, a book that unravels the life of a young woman from a small town in Illinois. Hamilton takes us along on this coming-of-age tale as the narrator puzzles through a life that sometimes comes close to making sense, but like the Rev’s Sunday sermons, seems more often than not to disappoint. She has trouble discerning the edge between fun and violence.

And yet, the rhythm of the seasons and the continuity of generations and the certain knowledge that kindness counts more than anything else, even when you want to give up and turn your eyes away, those things give you hope.

Jane Hamilton won the PEN Faulkner/Ernest Hemingway Award for best First novel in 1989 and was chosen by Oprah, thus generating instant best-seller status.  Therefore, most of my well-read followers have discovered The Book of Ruth long before I did, and I have the blog to thank for leading me to pick up dropped skeins.

And why choose this book to represent Illinois? As someone who comes from the Midwest originally, I can vouch for the veracity of the setting and the characters. although not everything that goes on behind closed doors gets as gruesome as some of these scenes. I often think that people that hop around the country from NYC to Washington to Chicago to LA do not see America. Only those who take the time to see small towns really see America. And this is small town America — some will say at its worst– but I will remind you again of the inevitability of the seasons and the turning of the generations that is obvious in small towns like it is not in larger places.

The book of course reaches far beyond the regional and touches much more universal threads, as well, and that is why it has been lauded so highly. It is not always an easy book to read, but definitely worth while.

Be sure to check out what Midwestern music my pal Kerry Dexter recommends for her American Music Road Trip.  Kerry writes a post ever Wednesday to accompany the states we visit here at A Traveler’s Library. Visit Kerry Wednesday and every day at Music Road.

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

2 thoughts on “Road Trip Book: Oprah Favorite in Illinois

  1. I will download Jane Hamilton’s “The Book of Ruth” onto my nook. Thanks for sharing.

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