Monday, February 13, 2012
Marlene Banks's Ruth's Redemption ~ Reviewed
By Marlene Banks
Published by Lift Every Voice; New Edition edition
Set in the 1800s, Ruth's Redemption is an unusual depiction of the lives of slaves and free blacks in pre-Civil War America. Bo, was educated while a slave. He was given his freedom and now owns a farm buying slaves for the sole purpose of giving them their freedom. Bo is also a man of God and widower whose life is destined to change when he meets the proud and hard-hearted slave girl, Ruth.
Ruth has known nothing but servitude and brutality since being separated from her mother at age thirteen. Purchased and sold primarily for breeding, Ruth struggles to adjust to life outside of bondage. She wants no part of Bo's Godly devotion. Yet Bo is unlike any man she's known and her experiences with him will leave her forever changed. A gripping slave era novel, Ruth's Redemption is a story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.
Set against the backdrop of the Nat Turner Rebellion in Tidewater, Virginia, this novel shines the light of God's unconditional love in the darkness of a culture's cruel socially accepted inhumanity.
Freedom. The dictionary defines FREE as: not under the control or power of another; independent, able to move in any direction; to release from bondage or power. Freedom is the reason people left their homeland and sailed to America. They wanted freedom to worship and live the way they wanted. They were tired of being controlled by the government.
This book talks of another Freedom. Freedom to be who God created you to be. Not a slave to man. While reading this incredible and disturbing account of Ruth, a breeder slave, I realized just how much I take my freedom for granted and how much I didn’t know about slavery. This author gives you a peek into what it’s like to a slave of the worst kind for a woman. She also shows that there is hope even in the most horrible of situations.
Marlene Banks takes the reader into the life of a breeder and also the life of Bo Peace a free black man. Ruth finds herself sold to Bo, who claims to be free. This didn’t give Ruth hope or joy. ALL men were alike. They forced themselves on her. They didn’t care for her, no one did.
Bo Peace was given land by his former Master. He lived on the land with other freed slaves, working and making a living. Bo tries to explain this to Ruth, “We’re a village in our own right. Your free to stay here or go as you please…It’s what God meant for me to do with this blessing – to build a village of African men and women who love the Lord and live with dignity being examples of God’s freedom.”
“Freedom?” Ruth shouts. Hope fo’ what? Mo hard work and whippins?”
“Hope for freedom. Hope in Christ for enough grace to endure slavery and for an eternal life as free men and women, where no man will take a whip to them. …I don’t set you free Ruth, God does. You were legally free the moment I paid the price Harvey wanted.” But you can also be free inside of the pain, worry and fear that can also hold you in bondage. How was he to get her to understand all that?
A friend reminds Bo, “Dontcha see? She wounded. Ya know how wounded creatures be. We was wounded befo’ or did ya forgit? We had time ta heal, en all she needs is time ta heal. She mo’ wounded den we ever was. She was used inside and out. Bein’ used for breedin’ leaves a hole in the soul. Give her time.”
Bo realizes the friend is right. Ruth was hollow inside and filled with pain. She was the most complicated women he’d ever encountered also the most abused. The Lord helps him show her she can be healed of the pain of the past. That she can be made whole in her heart, mind and soul, but it isn’t easy.
Who was this Bo? Ruth wonders. He talks like a preacher. If God was so great why did we suffer? Why the pain? Why all the killings? But there was something about what Bo was saying that struck her heart and made her listen. All this talk of freedom inside and out, easy for him to say. She was also fascinated about this gentle man. “How was it Bo could make her feel so cherished when he knew her past?”
The author showed the struggle and strong emotion not only in the community of slaves’ but that of the whites as well. One white woman argues with another.
“Ownership of another human being for monetary procurement is an atrocity, no exceptions.”
The slave owner responds, “But our slaves are happy!”
“I beg to differ. How can an imprisoned subservient man or woman possibly be happy under such conditions? Would you be happy as a slave? The idea is absurd. You people tell yourself that to justify what you’re doing but you should know better.”
This author helps the reader see all sides to this mess. It wasn’t easy to read in parts but she doesn’t get so graphic I couldn’t continue reading. Marlene did show how God worked in everyone’s life as they struggled to make sense of it all. Bad things happen to good and faithful people. Can the faithful still believe and not turn their back on God?
This novel is an eye opener to the reader that is unfamiliar as to how slaves were treated in America in the 1800’s and also an eye opener to how God was at work in slaves lives and that of their owners, as the battle raged on around them. God’s ways are not our ways. He is faithful to be with us no matter what comes our way. He never promised that there would be no trouble, but what he did promise was to be with us always. This is a story of hope, love and redemption. It’s also a beautifully touching love story between Bo and Ruth and of God’s love for us. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network