Today marks the paperback publication date of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, which is now a lot more affordable. This past weekend, I went to a big book club gathering to talk about Little Way. As always, I was amazed by the complexity of people’s responses. Everybody seemed deeply moved by the book, but once we got deeper into discussion, it emerged that the lessons readers took from it had everything to do with their own personal histories. The response has been like this from the beginning. Readers pick it up expecting one thing, but often find themselves taken by the narrative to places that surprise them.
Salesman mode on. Mother’s Day is coming up on May 11. I’d like to suggest that you consider buying the paperback for your mom. We’re also coming up on graduation season. The paperback makes a good and affordable gift for high school and college graduates, because it compels them to think about the path through life on which they are about to embark, and to consider the trade-offs they will make if they move away from home and family. Maybe these trade-offs will be worth it, but they should still consider these things, and carry them on their minds and in their hearts as they make their way in the world.
Because there’s so much in the book about the difference a good teacher can make in the lives of her students, the Little Way paperback is also a wonderful end-of-the-school-year gift for a beloved teacher. Finally, the paperback publication makes the prospect of book clubs taking up Little Way more viable. Here’s what Yuval Levin said about the book when it first came out last year:
Rod Dreher’s new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, which describes the life and tragic death of his sister, is the most powerful book I’ve read in years. It overflows with that inexplicable mix of joy and pain that a writer can only achieve when he is telling the truth. And it speaks especially profoundly to the power of home, and to the mixed blessing that is a life lived among people who know you at least as well as you know yourself. If, like me, you live very far away from the place you were born, you will at times find this book almost unbearably difficult to read. But only almost, because you will also find in it a moving affirmation of the sense that most of us can only discern rarely and vaguely in the bustle of our daily lives—the sense that beyond our petty vanities and momentary worries, beyond arguments and ambitions, beyond even principles and ideals, there is a kind of gentle, caring warmth that is really what makes life worth living. It is expressed through the words and acts of people who rise above themselves, but it seems to come from somewhere deeper. Maybe it’s divine, maybe it isn’t, but it’s real, and it effortlessly makes a mockery of a lot of what goes by the name of moral and political philosophy, and especially of the radical individualism that is so much a part of both the right and the left today. And it’s responsible for almost everything that is very good in our very good world. If I had to define what conservatism ultimately means for me, it would be the preservation and reinforcement of the preconditions for the emergence of that goodness in a society of highly imperfect human beings. But politics is of course only one very crude way to strengthen and protect those preconditions. A powerful story that brings us face to face with that mysterious something can do far more. And this book tells a mighty powerful story. Well worth your while.
Warning to those buying paperback online: I’ve met two readers who innocently did this before the paperback’s release, and were sold by independent booksellers, through Amazon, uncorrected page proofs. This is illegal, I’m pretty sure, certainly unethical on the part of sellers, and results in the reader purchasing an inferior product. Make sure you get your copy from a reputable seller.