RUBY DREAMS OF JANIS JOPLIN by Mary Clearman Blew

RUBY DREAMS OF JANIS JOPLIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young woman tries to make sense of her shattered past through music.

A decade after she ran away to sing in a country-western band, Ruby Gervais’ life is up in flames. Her band has come apart after drug issues and betrayal; she is desperately ill and troubled by a lack of clear memories. With nowhere to go but back to her hometown of Versailles, Montana, Ruby, now nearly 27, is taken in by her former piano teacher, who helps her get a job at the local community college to get back on her feet. As Ruby attempts to slip back into her old life, ghosts of the past keep popping up: the co-worker who was once Ruby’s foster sister, the lawyer now married to Ruby’s estranged mother, and the band mates who, one by one, come to find her. As Ruby’s past slowly unclouds, she understands that, to the town, she is a pariah for false testimony she gave as a child that resulted in the convictions of several townspeople (including Ruby’s own mother) for shocking crimes. As her band mates search her out and she must deal with the complicated relationships that threaten to overwhelm her, Ruby turns to the only comfort she has—music—in the hope that it will heal time’s wounds. Blew (This Is Not the Ivy League, 2011, etc.) is not afraid of drama: The book contains many subplots, including several rapes, secret identities, domestic violence, murder, and even Satanism. This excess in plot is matched by a structure rife with flashbacks, which make sense when Ruby is “time traveling,” or recovering buried memories; but when Blew is, for example, just flashing back to breakfast, it weighs an already heavy story down further.

Like an overproduced song, Blew’s novel suffers from too many bells and whistles.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4962-0758-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2018




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