Mama Ruby by Mary Monroe
Prequel to the Upper Room
If you are a fan of Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston, you will love Mama Ruby and the writings of Mary Monroe!
New York Times bestselling author Mary Monroe presents an unforgettable tale featuring Mama Ruby, the indomitable heroine of her acclaimed novel The Upper Room. Now readers will get a peek into Ruby’s early years, as she transforms from a spoiled small-town girl into one of the South’s most notorious and volatile women…
Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, Ruby Jean Upshaw is the kind of girl who knows what she wants and knows how to get it. By the time she’s fifteen, Ruby has developed a taste for fast men and cheap liquor, and not even her preacher daddy can set her straight. Most everyone in the neighborhood knows you don’t cross Ruby. Only Othella Mae Cartier, daughter of the town tramp, understands what makes Ruby tick.
When Ruby discovers she’s in the family way, she’s scared for the first time in her life. After hiding her growing belly with baggy dresses, Ruby secretly gives birth to a baby girl at Othella’s house. With few choices, Othella talks Ruby into giving the child away and with the help of a shocking revelation, convinces Ruby to run off with her to New Orleans.
But nothing can erase Ruby’s memories of the child she lost or quell her simmering rage at Othella for persuading her to let her precious baby go. If there’s a fine line between best friend and worst nightmare, Ruby is surely treading it. Because someday, there will be a reckoning. And when it comes, Othella will learn the hard way that no one knows how to exact revenge quite like Ruby Jean Upshaw!
How did Ruby and Othella Mae come to be who they are today? Find out in the exciting prequel to The Upper Room. There’s a fine line between best friend and worst nightmare…but there will be a reckoning....
Introduction to Mama Ruby Prequel to The Upper Room
Originally published in 1985, Mary Monroe's engaging debut novel, The Upper Room, features Ruby Montgomery, an obese, indomitable character who steals her best friend's baby daughter and flees to rural Florida, where she establishes herself as an almost mythical figure. The dialogue and setting are reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston. The Upper Room by Mary Monroe is a candid portrayal of the cold-blooded yet fascinating Mama Ruby.
~ Shreveport, Louisiana, 1934 ~
Nobody ever had to tell Ruby Jean Upshaw that she was special, but she heard it from every member of her family, her father’s congregation, her classmates, and even the people in her neighborhood almost every day. She was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. To some black folks, that was a very high position on the food chain. It meant that she had mystical abilities usually associated with Biblical icons. But as a child, Ruby didn’t care one way or the other about being “special” like that.
She balked when people insisted that she’d eventually have “healing hands” and the ability to “predict the future” like other seventh daughters of seventh daughters. But Ruby didn’t care about healing anybody, that was God’s job, and those snake oil salesmen who rolled through town from time to time. And she certainly didn’t want to be telling anybody what the future held for them. Because if it was something bad, they didn’t need to know, and she didn’t want to know.
The bottom line was, and she’d told a lot of people this when they brought it up, she didn’t want those responsibilities. The last thing she needed cluttering up her life was a bunch of superstitious people taking up her time, and drawing unwanted attention to her. Just being the daughter of a preacher was enough of a burden.
And since Ruby was the youngest member of the Upshaw family, her parents watched her like a hawk, and tried to monitor and control most of her activities. “Why do I have to go to church every Sunday?” she asked her mother one Sunday morning when she was just eight. “I want to have some fun!”
“You go to church because you are supposed to, gal. How would it look to the rest of your Papa’s congregation if his own daughter don’t come to church?” Ida replied, giving Ruby a stern look. “Don’t you want to be saved?”
“Saved from what, Mama?” Ruby questioned, looking out of the living room window at the kids across the street building a tent in their front yard.
“Saved from the world, worldly ways. This planet is full of all kinds of pitfalls out there waitin’ on a girl like you. Drinkin’. Men with more lust in their heads than brain matter. Violence. Loud music and sleazy outfits that would shock a harlot,” Ida answered.
Ruby already knew all of that. From what she’d been able to determine; it was a lot more fun to be “worldly” than it was to be the way her parents wanted her to be. “I want to have some fun like the rest of the kids!” she pouted, knowing that she faced a no-win situation. Her parents’ minds were as nimble as concrete. Once they laid down the rules for Ruby, there were no exceptions.
“You can still have fun and keep yourself virtuous,” her father insisted. “Me and Mother ain’t makin’ you do nothin’ we didn’t make your sisters do, and look how well they all turned out.”
Ruby pressed her lips together to keep from laughing. Before they got married, all six of her older sisters snuck out of the house at night, drank alcohol, slept with men, and wore clothes that would shock a harlot. That was the life that Ruby thought she wanted, and she had already started on the journey that would lead her to a life of fun and frivolity. And as far as violence, she wondered what her over bearing, but naïve, parents would say if they knew that she was already carrying a switchblade in her sock.
Ruby made good grades in school and she had a lot of friends, but it was hard for her to maintain both. She didn’t like to study, and she didn’t like having to attend that run down school four blocks from her house. Those activities took up too much of her time. She appreciated the fact that her classmates and playmates were at her beck and call, not because they liked her, but because they feared her. They all knew about that switchblade she carried in her sock, and they all knew that she was not afraid to use it. She was the most feared eight-year-old in the state.
© 2011 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher, Kensington Publishing Group. This excerpt has been adapted for Internet viewing. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the publisher's written permission. Copyright infringement is a serious offense. Share a link to this page or the author's website if you really like this promotional excerpt.
About the Author
Mary Monroe is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling God series, which includes God Don’t Like Ugly and God Ain’t Blind. Mary Monroe is the third child of Alabama sharecroppers and the first and only member of her family to finish high school. One of her proudest moments was when she became a winner of the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award.
She is currently celebrating the release of Mama Ruby, the prequel to the Upper Room, the book that started it all. She still writes seven days a week and gets most of her ideas from current events, and the people around her, but most of her material is autobiographical.
Mary Monroe currently lives in Oakland, California. She is divorced, loves to travel, loves to mingle with other authors, and she'll read anything by Ernest Gaines, Stephen King, Alice Walker, and James Patterson. Author website: http://www.marymonroe.org/
Mama Ruby by Mary Monroe
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