Many, many thanks to my friend Erin Manning for her generous review of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming. Erin was kind enough to read early drafts of the book. About the final version, she says, in part:
You may have heard that Rod Dreher’s new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, is a tearjerker. That is true. I pride myself on not crying while reading books; it’s a lit. major thing. But when Rod shared an early draft of the chapter chronicling his sister’s death, my tears started falling as I read–not gentle drips, but the sort of crying that alarms the family and causes shortages in the facial tissue supply. This unwonted damp-eyed condition continued sporadically throughout my reading of the manuscript, and I defy anybody to read this book and not get at least a little misty-eyed at key points, even if you’re a lot tougher than I am.
But it would be a mistake to think that this is ultimately a sad book, a book about loss and death. Those are certainly parts of it, and nobody who has heard anything about The Little Way of Ruthie Leming can pretend to be surprised by those parts. This, however, is a story of hope and healing and life, an intimate look at a remarkable community and the people in it, a song in honor of the kind of place we all wish we were from or could return to; and at its heart, it is a tale of two siblings.
In this mystery of faith through suffering and love beyond death Rod witnessed something remarkable. It was something he might never have appreciated if he had not left his hometown for so long, or been so often away from his sister’s side. Ruthie was not, he is quick to say even today, some kind of plaster saint; she was a real person, with real flaws. But the manner of her life, the type of Christian resignation (which is not a defeated thing at all) she showed in her death, and the real witness of love poured out by so many who knew her was a powerful thing, something all too rare in our world of grumpy empiricism. And for the first time, Rod began to see beyond the hurts of the past to the truth of this place that had always sparked Ruthie’s enthusiastic love: this place with names just as magical as Paris or Tegucigalpa:
Read the whole thing. Thank you, Erin, for your kind words, your advice as I was writing the book, and most of all for your prayers and friendship.