Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ruby Thomas, newly responsible for her two young nieces after a devastating tragedy, is determined to keep her family safe in the vast, swirling world of 1920s New York City. She’s got street smarts, boundless determination, and one unusual skill: the ability to throw a ball as hard as the greatest pitchers in a baseball-mad city.
From Coney Island sideshows to the brand-new Yankee Stadium, Diamond Ruby chronicles the extraordinary life and times of a girl who rises from utter poverty to the kind of renown only the Roaring Twenties can bestow. But her fame comes with a price, and Ruby must escape a deadly web of conspiracy and threats from Prohibition rumrunners, the Ku Klux Klan, and the gangster underworld.
Diamond Ruby “is the exciting tale of a forgotten piece of baseball’s heritage, a girl who could throw with the best of them. A real page-turner, based closely on a true story” (Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row). -- Touchstone
A few months ago, I was visiting my friends at Aaron's Books; and Todd and Sam couldn't stop raving about a book coming out in May called DIAMOND RUBY by Joseph Wallace. I am forever grateful to them for handing me their ARC because I have to tell you this book was amazing! I could not put this book down, and I think I carried it with me everywhere for two days including the dinner table. I'm positive that it's going to be one of my top reads for the year.
DIAMOND RUBY was just so good -- I wish I could just leave it at that because I'm afraid I'm not going to do it justice! I don't know if I can even express my excitement about this book, but I think you are probably getting the idea. There are so many positive things to say about this novel that I'm having a little problem putting my thoughts into words. But, here goes....
Probably the first thing that I loved about this book was the character of Ruby herself. When the book begins, Ruby is just a young girl who has to face a whole lot of sadness and tragedy. While some people can't recover from this much heartache, that wasn't the case with Ruby. Ruby became an incredibly smart, strong, and spunky young woman who was willing to do whatever it took to take care of herself and her nieces. I couldn't help but love her and root for her! I can assure you that Ruby is one of the most memorable female characters that I've encountered in quite awhile, and I think she's one of my favorite too.
Another thing I loved about this book was the basic storyline -- a young girl in the 1920s who could throw a baseball harder than most men! While parts of Ruby's character were based on a real person and parts of her story were based on real events, there is no doubt that Ruby's life experiences, as created by Mr. Wallace, made for a very memorable story. Ruby overcame multiple tragedies and became a successful woman in a man's world. The book was filled with heartache and hope, as well as the traditional story of good verses evil. In so many ways, DIAMOND RUBY was a coming-of-age tale for Ruby (and you know how much I love good coming-of-age stories!)
Lastly, I have to say that I loved how Mr. Wallace told Ruby's story. I thought he did an amazing job of writing a story with a female main character (but I'm always impressed when a male author writes an honest and believable account of a woman.) I also admired him greatly for incorporating so many historical events and characters into Ruby's story. Sometimes when a fictional character exists alongside real people, it doesn't ring true to me. That certainly wasn't the case with Ruby. I loved the scenes with Ruby and Babe Ruth (and the scenes with Jack Dempsey were great too), and I thought Mr. Wallace made these larger-than-life characters seem like real folks.
As I read DIAMOND RUBY, I couldn't help but think that someone should make this novel into a movie. I hesitate to say that because I'm one of those people that never think the movie is as good as a book, but I truly think DIAMOND RUBY is such a wonderful story that it needs to reach the masses (and unfortunately of fortunately depending on how you look at it, a movie does appeal to a lot of non-readers!) I also think Mr. Wallace's descriptions of the characters and their actions as well as his historical references were so well done that they brought this book to life for me. I could actually "see" the entire story play out in my mind as I read this.
DIAMOND RUBY is Mr. Wallace's first novel, but he has written other books including a children's book and some non-fiction titles. I can't imagine a much better debut novel that DIAMOND RUBY! I think Mr. Wallace is just a wonderful storyteller, and it was apparent to me that he has a real love of the game of baseball. I just hope that he continues writing fiction, and I'd be even happier if I had the opportunity to read more about Ruby. I admit that I think there is still more to her story, and I am desperately hoping that Mr. Wallace feels the same way.
I definitely think DIAMOND RUBY is going to be a hit with book clubs over the next few years. Needless to say, I thought the story was terrific and I loved Mr. Wallace's writing style. However, DIAMOND RUBY would also be a great book to discuss with a bunch of friends. There is a reading guide available in the back of the book with some thought-provoking questions, but I also liked the "Tips for Enhancing Your Book Club" section. One of the things that I appreciated the most about DIAMOND RUBY is that there really is something for everyone in this story -- there is most definitely universal appeal. I think women as well as men will enjoy this book; and I think it's a book that will resonate with the young and old alike! I could talk about Ruby and her actions for hours, but there are lots of other characters worth talking about too. Some of the themes you might want to discuss further include the importance of sports, how the characters coped with tragedy, the definition of success, and the symbolism of Ruby's nickname. But of course, there are a lot more.
I feel as if I've just gushed about this book, but I really was blown away by it! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of DIAMOND RUBY and then sharing it with all of your friends!
Thanks to the folks at Aaron's Books for sharing their copy with me!