Reviews for Little Way of Ruthie Leming : A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life
Booklist Reviews 2013 March #1
Dreher and his sister, Ruthie, had always been different. While he chafed at their small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, she was deeply at home and settled. His journalism career took him to New York and Washington, D.C., while she taught school and raised a family with her childhood sweetheart, staying close to the homestead their parents had made. She also stayed close to the rituals, traditions, and spirituality that knit family and community, a closeness and spirituality that fortified Ruthie when she was diagnosed with a virulent cancer. Watching his sister's grace and the kindness of family, friends, and neighbors, Dreher pondered what he'd been missing in his own life and how he might achieve the sense of peace and connection at the center of Ruthie's life. He goes deeper, in search of the reason for the abiding tension in their otherwise loving relationship and for the balance in his own family life that ultimately leads him back to the hometown he once fled. Dreher offers a hard-eyed self-examination and a loving, but complex, portrait of filial love. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2013 April
The beauty of a simple life
By all appearances, Rod Dreher had a wonderful life. He had a successful career as a journalist; his writing appeared in The Dallas Morning News, The New York Post and The American Conservative; and he had published a book as well. But Dreher felt an emptiness in his life when his younger sister, Ruthie Leming, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 40. Suddenly, Dreher felt the tug of his hometown: St. Francisville, Louisiana, a small community whose residents were rallying around Ruthie in her time of need. So Dreher took his wife and three children and moved home to help care for his sister and reconnect with his roots.
Ruthie Leming’s life may not have been as glamorous as her brother’s, but in many ways, Dreher finds it more meaningful. She was a popular schoolteacher, a loving mother of three and a devoted wife to her high school sweetheart. While her brother fled their town of 1,700 people, Ruthie stayed home. Her energy and enthusiasm touched people’s lives, and when she got sick, they responded with caring and love.
“Ruthie transfigured this town in my eyes,” Dreher writes. “Her suffering and death made me see the good that I couldn’t see before. The same communal bonds that appeared to me as chains all those years ago had become my Louisiana family’s lifelines.” Yet coming home to the town—and the family—he left behind isn’t always easy; resentments linger, and some wounds heal more quickly than others.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming reminds us of the importance of love, faith and family. And while it deals in death, this book shows us that it is, indeed, a wonderful life. Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #2
A Louisiana-born journalist's memoir of how he came to terms with questions of personal belonging that accompanied his "country mouse" sister's tragically premature death. Dreher (Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots, 2006) was a restless dreamer who never quite went along with "the intolerance, the social conformity [and] the cliquishness" that characterized the rural Southern world into which he was born. His pretty and popular sister Ruthie, however, loved their hometown of St. Francisville and knew that everything she ever wanted in life was "in front of her." When Dreher received his first major career break away from home, he took the job. Ruthie, on the other hand, married and became a schoolteacher who took special interest in children from troubled homes. After the birth of Ruthie's first child in 1993, Dreher felt the unexpected tug of home. His hopes of reintegrating into his family and making peace with his father were soon dashed, and he returned to his peripatetic life as a journalist in 1994. Then, in 2010, he discovered that Ruthie was dying of cancer and returned to St. Francisville with his wife and sons. The outpouring of love and support he saw from the townspeople for his sister made him wonder once again if he had made the right choice to leave. But as he re-engaged with the dying Ruthie and her family, he also saw that his ambitions had stirred deep resentment in the people he loved most. Moved by his sister's courageous battle and the stories of how Ruthie's everyday acts of love had changed the lives of others, Dreher began the difficult process of humbly accepting "the limitations of place" to finally know "the joys that [could] also be found there." Emotionally complex and genuinely affecting. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
The fatal illness of his younger sister Ruthie (equally saintly and vinegar-tongued), leads conservative journalist Dreher to examine what he left behind in his childhood home of St. Francisville, LA, to pursue a writing career in cities such as Philadelphia and DC. The reasons for why "you can't go home again" are evident to Dreher, who chronicles the tradeoffs between city and small-town life through the lens of his conversion to Catholicism and search for community. VERDICT While Dreher's account of a family devastated by the illness of a beloved member may comfort readers in similar circumstances, the religiosity of his approach to Ruthie's illness and death may be harder for others to relate to. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #3
For author and Dallas Morning News columnist Dreher and his baby sister, Ruthie, their tiny Louisiana parish defined them as they grew up, bringing a sense of belonging to her and a need to escape for him. Family and community meant everything to the townspeople, and they routinely gathered at Dreher's parents' home and later his sister's, but he found himself at odds with his father and sister, yearning for experiences beyond the confining borders of the parish. Dreher writes movingly of the struggles within himself and within his family, in particular with his sister. Ruthie became a schoolteacher with a huge impact on her students, beloved by everybody, but with little patience for what she viewed as her brother's snobbish and overly intellectual thinking and lifestyle that grew into lifelong resentments. While Ruthie married her high school sweetheart before graduating from college and was content to never go far from her childhood door, Dreher changed jobs and cities multiple times even after settling down with a wife and kids. It wasn't until his sister is diagnosed at 40 with cancer that he begins to re-evaluate his plans, realizing that after two decades away he is only now able to return, at peace with the decisions he made as he works to get to know his extended family better and tries to forgive and understand them. Through his sister's life and in her death, Dreher, writing in this tender memoir, learns compassion, gratitude, and to focus on the blessings of the moment. Agent: Gary Morris. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC