*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley*
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West is a story about a young woman trying to figure out how to live with the abuse from her father when the community, especially their church, believe her father killed her mother.
Ruby King’s mother Alice is shot dead in her South Side Chicago home after returning from Calvary Hop Christian Church. This of course devastates Ruby but also worries her as she’s now stuck living in the house with her abusive father, Lebanon. Seen as the rough-around-the-edges guy, Lebanon is known to beat his wife, so in the eyes of the church community, he may have something to do with Alice’s murder. But at the time of the murder, he was at his bakery, so police believe it’s a robbery gone wrong. He keeps busy by visiting his sick mother Sara in the hospital. Ruby, on the other hand, is trying to stay calm though her best friend Layla thinks otherwise. Layla asks for help from her pastor father, Rev. Jackson Potter, but he’s not quick to help Ruby. This perturbs Layla, who entrusts others to help her get Ruby out the house. In her desperate struggle to save her friend, Layla discovers buried secrets between her family and Ruby’s family that causes her to question everything, including who killed Alice King.
Because Ruby is 24-years-old, a bona fide adult, the story at first doesn’t explain why she feels she has to stay with her father after her mother is killed. Why can’t she stay with Layla? It does a good job of showing Ruby slow to act in her grief while Layla speeds up her efforts. The desperation differs between the two friends with Ruby feeling she can handle the abuse and Layla wanting to end the abuse as soon as possible. Another storyline develops between Lebanon and Sara, who is very cruel to her son. Lebanon tries to figure out why his mother is the way she is, which becomes one of the buried secrets that turns the story upside down, but also shows the destruction he passed down to his household. The generational trauma and pain is so heavy on the Kings where abuse thrives in their home while the Potters ignore theirs and become successful leaders in the church. But Lebanon’s past took him to prison for another murder that Jackson was present at, so who killed that person becomes another mystery within the story. The inanimate object that plays a huge role in this story is the church. The author gives the church its own perspective as if the walls can talk—and listen.
Overall, the story unveils layers at different parts to explain why Ruby is pressured to stay home with Lebanon and his abuse, why Layla is so headstrong to save Ruby, and why Alice’s murder comes down to the buried secrets that changed the characters’ hearts.