Nubian Circle Book Club

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Leaving Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

Leaving is Richard Dry's debut novel and it is excellent!! It is the story of Ruby Washington's family - three generations and their actions and reactions to survive against all odds.  In 1959, Ruby, poor and pregnant, hastily leaves small town South Carolina for Oakland, California with her younger half brother in tow.  She moves in with her father and his lover and finds work as a seamstress.  Dry then blends in the political and social happenings of the time and we watch how Ruby struggles to hold her family together despite racism, incest, domestic violence, and the influx of drugs in the community.

Weighing in at 450 pages, Dry gives the reader a lot to consider.  The interrelationships of the characters are complex and engaging.  Dry provides up close and personal perspectives of the movement through the eyes of a college age Easton when he ventures south to participate in a Civil Rights march in Selma, Alabama. Another supporting character embodies the Black Panther philosophies; Lida (Ruby's daughter) resorts to prostitution to support a drug habit; Love (Ruby's grandson) grows up with heroin-addicted parents and experiences the juvenile justice system.  Every character has a unique voice/view and a heartbreaking story, which Dry tells with compelling realism.  Interweaved within the story are historical (factual) citations and references that shaped race relations and influenced the Black experience in America.

Dry writes with conviction and purpose as evidenced in the title reference and the theme of  "leaving" is echoed in the character's actions, a few examples are:  Rubys exodus from South Carolina is necessary to avoid racial violence; whereas Love escapes to the same South Carolina to avoid the ills of urban gang life.  Lida's choice to leave Ruby's home is a result of her fleeing pain and unresolved issues; Marcus (Lida's husband) leaves for three years to launch a musical career, etc.

This book was simply a good read the characters and plot were well developed; pacing was sound and the story moved quickly (which made the 450 pages easier to digest).   

The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Leaving is 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.