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Book of Ruth: Reviewed

Author:Jane Hamilton
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:1989

"What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute. The sorrows of mothers, say Janet Fitch and Jane Hamilton, are visited on their daughters.

...

Perhaps it is because the mothers in White Oleander and The Book of Ruth are so monstrous that we cannot forgive the mothers for the torment they inflict on their daughters. We hold them responsible for failing to surmount their own troubles in order to better the lives of their children and grandchildren, even when their daughters actively contribute to their own tragedies.

This book is more fully reviewed in our discussion of some books about the relationships between moms and their daughters.


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