Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Song I Knew by Heart by Bret Lott

Perhaps because I've always liked the story of Ruth in the Hebrew Scriptures I immediately felt drawn to this book. Lott's two main characters share the same name as the Biblical figures—Naomi and Ruth.

Naomi is a widow and although she originally comes from South Carolina, she's been living in Massachusetts ever since she was a young bride. Her husband Eli had opened up a plumbing business with his good friend Lonnie.

The young couple tried to start a family, but to no avail. When Naomi finds out that they won't be able to have children Eli, uncharacteristically, offers no support and simply leaves for work. Naomi, distraught and needing comfort, goes to see Lonnie and is the initiator of sex. She knows that it will never happen again and so does Lonnie.

Naomi lives with the guilt for fifty years. That same day Lonnie confesses to Eli who forgives Naomi and forbids Lonnie to ever bring up the subject again. Because Eli and Naomi love each other their marriage doesn't disintegrate under the burden—although Naomi always feels her guilt.

In time Naomi does conceive and Mahlon is born. As an adult he marries Ruth and their twenty-year marriage is childless. Mahlon dies in a car accident on his way back home after visiting Lonnie who has been like another father to Mahlon. Lonnie is dying.. During the intervening years Naomi has not seen Lonnie. Eli had left the plumbing business.

Now both women are windows. Naomi has a strong network of women who she's been close to for decades. These women have shared the ups and downs of their lives so when Naomi tells them that she is returning to South Carolina they are perplexed.

Ruth, like her Bibical counterpart, says that whereever Naomi goes she'll also go. Naomi tells Ruth about the special light that shines through the pines—she's returning to that light. By this time the only person she knows in the area is a step-brother.

Throughout the book there's a strong spirirual element—the story and the talk of forgiveness speak to the undergirding throughout the book.

The family and the extended family welcome the two women, help Ruth find a job, and the healing process for Naomi continues. Ruth, following the Bibical outline, meets a "good" man who wants to marry her.

Some critics find the book a bit cloying, but I throughly enjoyed the story.


Library Book

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