History Disguised, a book review

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Ruth’s Redemption

I love history, especially when I have no idea that I’m learning!

Ruth’s Redemption is an engaging love story, wrapped in an accurate account of the slow, painful collapse of slavery in America in the 1830’s. By including real life characters like Nat Turner and literal geography such as Dismal Swamp, Marlene Banks pulls her readers into an unwitting tour of history.

Bo Peace knew that God had called him to work tirelessly but peacefully toward abolition. A freed black man, he returned frequently to the slave market to purchase the freedom of as many slaves as he could, one by one. On a summer morning, the Holy Spirit insisted that he purchase Ruth, despite the unreasonably high price that was demanded.

Ruth was hardened, hateful and barely grateful at first. She had been raped repeatedly in forced service as a breeding slave. She longed for death. To Ruth, freedom was a forbidden dream, one that could only be fought for and taken by force. She could not grasp Bo’s gift of physical freedom. Consequently, she refused to believe in Bo’s God, whom he insisted offered freedom from her anger, hurt and hopelessness.

Ruth’s Redemption is moderately paced, leading the reader through Bo and Ruth’s daily lives on their farm, their developing romance and Ruth’s budding faith. While the ascent toward the story’s climax seems a bit slow, it is very entertaining. Banks leads the reader through a gently rolling plot with a series of smaller, dramatic events. A few characters seem to have only peripheral rolls and melt, unnoticed into the fabric of the story.

I admire Banks’ unashamed inclusion and application of the Christian faith. She delivers clear, biblical theology addressing sin, guilt, forgiveness and salvation. This is accomplished through realistic dialogue, preventing the reader from feeling as if he has just sat through a lengthy sermon.

Ruth’s Redemption is a worthy read, but not my favorite of Banks’ novels. The blending of historical events and the fictional romantic plot line is not done as seamlessly as in her other novels. She concludes the book with a predictable happily-ever-after ending for Bo and Ruth, but a detached insert of sorts, wrapping up the narrative of Nat Turner’s slave revolt.

Freedom is the over-arching theme of this book. Freedom from slavery; freedom from sin, and how neither can be achieved or sustained without the God of the Bible.

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