From the beloved author of Necklace of Kisses comes a modern-day fairy tale of a willful and intuitive heroine and a world of shocking realism and transcendent magic.
Francesca Lia Block, this time with co-writer Carmen Staton, introduces readers to Ruby, a Midwestern girl named for the jewel that is believed to ward off evil spirits. Ruby's special gift is a sixth sense that makes her at one with nature and gives her the ability to know her own destiny.
After growing up in an abusive family, Ruby escapes to Los Angeles and learns of her soulmate -- Orion -- a British actor. She travels to England, where she works at a potions and herbs shop, and through a series of coincidental circumstances, ends up nursing Orion back to health without confessing that she has been on a quest to find him all along. But just when she thinks her dream is becoming a reality, Ruby is stopped in her tracks by the violent demons of her past. Only by facing the darkness together can she and Orion finally fulfill their destiny.
As with Necklace of Kisses, Block, here with Staton, breaks the mold. In Ruby, readers will find a story about the power of our minds to overcome the past and ultimately change the course of our lives.
YA author Block (the Weetzie Bat books) collaborates on a novel yet maintains her trademarks: fairy tale simplicity combined with wrenching emotional realism, served with a hefty side of over-the-top romance. It's told mostly from the perspective of premonition-prone Ruby, who, along with her sister, Opal, grows up terrorized by a chillingly abusive father while their loving but eerily passive mother looks on. Interspersed throughout are vignettes from the life of a British boy named Orion Woolf, who grows up with a kind but deceitful sorceress mother, Isabelle, and blooms into dangerous beauty. Ruby, seeking solace from a bad relationship, moves to Los Angeles and works as a nanny for a movie producer whose film stars Orion, who has become an Orlando Bloomesque star. Instantly smitten, Ruby buys a plane ticket to England, where she traipses through a psychedelic London, lands in Orion's ultra-bucolic hometown, finds a job in Isabelle's magic shop and hones her innate powers. When a badly ailing Orion comes home to hide from the world, Ruby uses her gifts to nurse him back to health--though, as her intensifying flashbacks to the horrors of her childhood gradually reveal, she may be even more in need of healing. (July 3)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 03, 2006
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Excerpt from Ruby by Francesca Lia Block
The Island of the Animals
My first memory
I am three years old. I want Opal to play with me but she doesn't want to. I keep going to her bedroom, pestering her mercilessly, but she won't listen. So I go to the den in the basement, where my parents are watching television. The only light is from the TV screen. There are no windows down here. The air smells dusty. My sister has followed me.
Eighteen years later, and here, in my mind, it is all still happening.
My father leaps over the back of the couch and grabs Opal by her hair.
He punches her in the face.
My mother jumps on my father, screaming and hitting him, trying to pry his hands off Opal's throat. He knocks my mom into the wall. A chair topples over. He is still strangling my sister. I can see her pinned to the ground. I can see her eyes.
I don't remember why he stops. He just stops. He lies calmly back down on the couch and orders my sister to go play with me. She is still on the floor, sobbing. I can hear the pressure of his fingers in the sound of her voice.
I am watching all of this, standing right here, filled with rage and disgust, but also completely separate. Then a rushing, sucking sensation, as if my soul has just dropped down into my body for the first time.
And now I know who I am.
I am Ruby. I am three. I have decided. I will fight back.
During my childhood, I had what my mother called a wild imagination. My father called me a liar. Ironic, isn't it, coming from him. What I was -- I was a survivor.
In the middle of the lake there was a small island. I took my boat there every day. An old white mare carried me through the woods where each tree held a small wooden house supported and concealed in its branches. The air was decked with the scent of flowers I'd never seen before. Their fragrance was almost visible; it made my head spin.
We came to a large mansion. It was like some kind of plantation home, white with black shutters, columns, a wraparound porch with big rocking chairs and wooden palm-leaf fans. Quirky contraptions for using the natural energy of the sun and wind. All the plants in the overgrown garden had healing properties if you knew how to use them. Inside the house, the animals roamed free. They had been rescued from their abusive homes. A parrot with its eyeball burned out by a cigarette butt. An ocelot that had been declawed and whipped until it could barely walk. Lizards smuggled from their native habitats, crammed together inside of tiny boxes so that their frills had broken off. I spent the day with the animals. They sat on my shoulders and in my lap. I fed them berries and sang to them. I never wanted to leave.
But back I went to sit at my parents' table, watching my father clenching his cigarette, dropping ashes on the linen.
Once, my fingers got in the way. When he burned me with the cigarette he insisted it was accidental.
At least I was safe in my mind, though. I knew the animals were waiting for me. . . .
There was a bog behind my friend Amy's house. I spent hours there, feeling the squishy earth between my toes, lying on my stomach near the water's edge watching the toads mate and lay their eggs. The males mounted the females, who expelled eggs into the mud. Then the toads all left. The eggs hatched into tadpoles, and I dropped peat moss onto the water's surface to see the frenzied black squiggles feed.