Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig

Title: Ruth’s Journey
Author: Donald McCaig
Read by:  Cherise Boothe
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 14 hours (12 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

Ruth’s Journey is subtitled “the authorized novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.”  I am a huge Gone with the Wind fan.  I obsessively watched the move as a kid and then read the book first when I was around 13 and a few times since then.  It is a sprawling masterpiece of historical fiction with a great cast of characters, especially Scarlett, who is a heroine that you often find a hard time liking.  One great character in the book and movie is Mammy, who is one of the only people that truly understands Scarlett and isn’t afraid to tell her what she thinks about her actions.  Ruth’s Journey finally gives a name to Mammy, Ruth, and tells her story from childhood through the picnic at Twelve Oaks where Rhett and Scarlett meet and the very start of the Civil War.

Ruth’s Journey starts in Saint-Domingue which is undergoing a revolution.  Scarlett’s grandmother, Solange Fornier lives on the island with her husband Captain Augustin Fornier.  Captain Fornier finds a young child amongst carnage and the only one left living amongst her family.  He takes her home to his wife Solange and she names her Ruth.  Ruth stays with them as they flee the island for a new life in Savannah.  Ruth has some adventures of her own and eventually becomes Mammy to Solange’s daughter Ellen and then moves up country to Tara when Ellen marries Gerald O’Hara and becomes a mother herself.

As a fan of Gone with the Wind I enjoyed the story and getting more background about different characters, in particular I loved learning about all of the neighbors of Tara and their life before the war.  What I didn’t like is that this didn’t really seem like Ruth’s Journey at all.  It was Solange’s journey with Ruth as a bit side character until CD five when the story abruptly shifts to Ruth as the main character.  At that point I missed Solange as I felt it was her story. The story of Ruth as a wife and a mother was the strongest part of the novel for me.  There was one heart breaking scene that had me in tears.  It’s hard to believe that human beings treated others that way.  When Ruth is no longer a wife and mother and becomes Mammy again the story is once again really about everyone around Ruth and not about Ruth herself.  I wish we could have gotten a more in depth look at Ruth as Mammy and the doings downstairs versus upstairs like the novel Netherfield (Pride and Prejudice told from the servants’ point of view).  I also wondered how this book could have gone if it had been written by Alice Walker or Maya Angelou.

Cherise Booth was a fine narrator and was the voice of Mammy to me.  The audio story kept me interested on my long drives to work. 

Overall, I would recommend this to fans of Gone with the Wind with the caveat that you will find out a lot more about Scarlett’s grandmother, childhood, and other side characters, but not as much about Mammy as you would like.


  1. I wonder why there's not more about Mammy? Terrific review, Laura!

  2. That's disappointing about not getting as much of the main character. But I must put this one on the list b/c I adore GWTW.

  3. This book has sure kept alive the love of Gone With the Wind. I only saw the movie but never read the book.

  4. Oh my! I am so excited to have stumbled across your site. I too am a HUGE Gone With the Wind fan and also obsessively watched it over and over as a kid. I am definitely going to be buying this one! Thanks for recommending this!

    If you are looking for another great thrilling historical fiction read, you must check out "Inventing Madness" by J.G. Schwartz, a story of Thomas Edison. It completely changed the way I have ever thought of Thomas Edison-it is the story of total devotion of a mother for her deeply disturbed son. It is a really great book, but not for those under the age of 18 due to some adult content.

    1. One of the best stories of all time, Becky :-). I agree that this one looks excellent! Thanks also for your share - I will check that one out as I am a big historical fiction fan.

  5. Thanks for the great tip Becky! I haven't heard of this book before and I love Thomas Edison. I've added it to my "to read" list.

    For those that haven't read Gone with the Wind - it's definitely worth reading. There is so much more in the book that isn't in the movie - and I love the movie! I've read it three times my life and know I will be reading it again one day.