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As David Brooks poignantly described Dreher's journey homeward in a recent New York Times column, Dreher and his wife Julie "decided to accept the limitations of small-town life in exchange for the privilege of being part of a community."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-17
- Reviewer: Staff
For author and Dallas Morning News columnist Dreher and his baby sister, Ruthie, their tiny Louisiana parish defined them as they grew up, bringing a sense of belonging to her and a need to escape for him. Family and community meant everything to the townspeople, and they routinely gathered at Dreher’s parents’ home and later his sister’s, but he found himself at odds with his father and sister, yearning for experiences beyond the confining borders of the parish. Dreher writes movingly of the struggles within himself and within his family, in particular with his sister. Ruthie became a schoolteacher with a huge impact on her students, beloved by everybody, but with little patience for what she viewed as her brother’s snobbish and overly intellectual thinking and lifestyle that grew into lifelong resentments. While Ruthie married her high school sweetheart before graduating from college and was content to never go far from her childhood door, Dreher changed jobs and cities multiple times even after settling down with a wife and kids. It wasn’t until his sister is diagnosed at 40 with cancer that he begins to re-evaluate his plans, realizing that after two decades away he is only now able to return, at peace with the decisions he made as he works to get to know his extended family better and tries to forgive and understand them. Through his sister’s life and in her death, Dreher, writing in this tender memoir, learns compassion, gratitude, and to focus on the blessings of the moment. Agent: Gary Morris. (Apr.)
The beauty of a simple life
By all appearances, Rod Dreher had a wonderful life. He had a successful career as a journalist; his writing appeared in The Dallas Morning News, The New York Post and The American Conservative; and he had published a book as well. But Dreher felt an emptiness in his life when his younger sister, Ruthie Leming, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 40. Suddenly, Dreher felt the tug of his hometown: St. Francisville, Louisiana, a small community whose residents were rallying around Ruthie in her time of need. So Dreher took his wife and three children and moved home to help care for his sister and reconnect with his roots.
Ruthie Leming’s life may not have been as glamorous as her brother’s, but in many ways, Dreher finds it more meaningful. She was a popular schoolteacher, a loving mother of three and a devoted wife to her high school sweetheart. While her brother fled their town of 1,700 people, Ruthie stayed home. Her energy and enthusiasm touched people’s lives, and when she got sick, they responded with caring and love.
“Ruthie transfigured this town in my eyes,” Dreher writes. “Her suffering and death made me see the good that I couldn’t see before. The same communal bonds that appeared to me as chains all those years ago had become my Louisiana family’s lifelines.” Yet coming home to the town—and the family—he left behind isn’t always easy; resentments linger, and some wounds heal more quickly than others.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming reminds us of the importance of love, faith and family. And while it deals in death, this book shows us that it is, indeed, a wonderful life.