Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming - Book Review

Rod Dreher, in his very moving elegy to his sister, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, wants you to know this about her:
A long time ago - I must have been about seven years old, which would have made Ruthie five - I did something rotten to her.  What it was, I can't remember.  I teased her all the time, and she spent much of her childhood whaling the tar out of me for it.  Whatever happened that time, though, must have been awful, because our father told me to go lie down on my bed and wait for him.  The could mean only one thing:  that he was going to deliver one of his rare but highly effective spankings, with his belt.
I cannot recall what my offense was, but I well remember walking down the hallway and climbing onto the bed, knowing full well that I deserve it.  I always did.  Nothing to be done but to stretch out, face down  and take what I had coming.
And then it happened.  Ruthie ran into the bedroom just ahead of Paw and, sobbing, threw herself across me.
"Whip me!" she cried.  "Daddy, whip me!"
Paw gave no spanking that day.  He turned and walked away.  Ruthie left too.  There I sat, on the bed, wondering what had just happened.
Forty years later, I still do.
What follows is the story not only of Ruthie and her Little Way of living a Christ-like life in the face of certain death, but a portrait of Dreher's family, the town - St Francisville, Louisiana - in which he was born, and the people with whom he grew up.  Dreher explores the evolution of his faith and his tendency to over-intellectualize everything and compares it with his sister's simpler, more straightforward approach to hers.  It's the difference between thinking about living a good life and actually living that life.

I was an admirer of Dreher's when he was with National Review but I lost track of him during his Crunchy Con days and when he moved on to write editorials for The Dallas Morning News.  I don't know how I found him again but it was shortly after the death of Ruthie and I've been following the living and the writing of this book since its inception.  Dreher bothers me at times with his intellectualism but there's no doubt of his feelings for his sister or his faith in Christ.  This book is a work of love for both.

You're guaranteed to weep.