RUTH’S JOURNEY by Donald McCaig

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The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite books. I know it’s racist and promotes stereotypes, but I love it anyway despite it’s political incorrectness.

When I was about 11 years old, my mother dragged me to a movie theater about 45 minutes away because they were screening GWTW. I was young, had never even heard of it, but I fell in love with Scarlet and Rhett and one of the greatest love stories of all time and learned I had a romantic side. Who knew. I also didn’t know that the film was based on a book – my mother wasn’t a reader so never thought to mention that fact.

A few years later I found a copy in my stepmother’s bookshelves (she was a big reader,) inscribed to her from her high school boyfriend, later her first husband. She gave it to me and I stayed up all night reading it. I fell in love all over again, and read and re-read that book many times over the years.

I’ve read all the GWTW off shoots, and while I enjoyed revisiting Tara in all its incarnations, the only one that I thought was really good was McCaig’s Rhett Butler’s People.

So when I heard about this book, I was pretty stoked to read it, and I’m happy to say it lived up to my expectations. This is Mammy’s story, and McCaig turned around all the racism and stereotyping and brought Mammy to life as a fully realized character, not a caricature.

For starters, Mammy has a name – Ruth. Born on Saint Dominque and brought to Savannah on the heels of the revolution there, she falls in love with Jehu Glen, a free black man and a gifted carpenter. Ruth is a strong woman, surviving many disappointments in her life, yet continues to love.

We learn how she ended up with Scarlett’s mother Ellen, and how Ellen married Gerald – which was hinted at in GWTW but futher explained here, along with the mysterious Phillip. We learn of her connection with Rhett Butler’s family as well. And the cruelties of slavery are much more fully embraced here.

I don’t know how this book stands on its own as I am so familiar with GWTW that I have no basis for that understanding. So all I can say is this book brings another dimension to that one, and I ripped through it in a night. I think it’s a great addition to the saga and not to be missed by GWTW fans.

10/14 Stacy Alesi

RUTH’S JOURNEY by Donald McCaig. Atria Books (October 14, 2014). ISBN 978-1451643534. 384p.

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