A Virtuous Woman

 A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

"She hasn't been dead four months and I've already eaten to the bottom of the deep freeze."

With this opening sentence, Jack begins telling the story of Ruby, his wife of 25 years who recently passed away from cancer. The chapters alternate between his voice and hers, also moving between past and present, but it isn't difficult to follow. Their voices are so distinct that it's easy to tell which one you're reading.

Ruby, raised by doting parents with the means to make her life easy, never had to do much for herself. When a man of questionable character starts paying her attention, starry-eyed she believes everything he says. After they marry she realizes her mistake; he lies, cheats, and lives it up while she works manual labour jobs to provide for them. When he dies, she welcomes Jack's quiet steadiness into her life. 

Jack, twenty years older than Ruby, has lived alone and never thought of marrying until he met her. As a tenant farmer he has little to offer her, but they meet each other's need for a quiet, dependable life partner so they marry and make a good life together. 

A Virtuous Woman isn't a romance but it is a story of love, true and wise, and of grief and second chances and hope. It's told mostly through their memories and though there's not a lot of plot, the characters ring true and their voices are vivid and intimate and you feel Jack and Ruby are talking directly to you. These are real people, the kind of folks who could live just down the road from you. 

I loved this one.


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