A Canadian girl endures hardship and struggles in her 14th year.
Kate’s the oldest of six children in a Catholic family living in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1925. Ever since her mother came down with tuberculosis a year ago, her father’s been drinking the family into ruin. When he loses his job as a bakery delivery driver, the family relocates to his parents’ remote farm, then returns as her mother’s health worsens. And then another catastrophe strikes. Kate tries to keep charge of her siblings, but eventually they’re farmed out to other family members, and Kate’s father sells the titular ring, which was her mother’s. Much happens, and the characters move around a lot, but they never really come to life—Kate’s brothers in particular seem interchangeable—and a lot of the emotion in the story feels forced. Though the action is told from Kate’s first-person perspective, readers never fully understand what she most deeply wants, or why, and while the setting is carefully drawn, it feels more like a memory than a lived-in place. Kate’s voice is appropriately antique: Her mother’s illness is “consumption,” she has a “pal” named Grace, and she is mindful of “proper” behavior. All characters adhere to a white default.
Bleak and, unfortunately, not particularly compelling. (Historical fiction. 10-12)