Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Review-Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace
Joseph Wallace,Touchstone, 2010, $25.00,pb, 464pp, 978-1-4391-6005-3.
Ruby Thomas, a child of seven catches a fly ball hit by Casey Stengel on April 5, 1913. As she looks at the ball she imagines herself a pitcher. Whether her unusually long arms often a source of ridicule, contribute to her success one will never know. Catching baseball fever that day, Ruby is destined to make a mark on the world.
Later, using a tree in her backyard as a target, she discovers her athletic gift. A mighty fastball with pin point accuracy. Some years later, when her family dies during the Spanish influenza outbreak, she becomes the sole support for her two nieces. Driven by the need to care for them, she lands a job at a Coney Island sideshow throwing fastballs. The attraction, called the Birdcage, is a challenge to anyone to beat her speed. The abusive owner schedules her long arduous hours with little rest. The pay is low and the work takes a painful physical tole on her throwing arm. One day Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey, curious visitors, show up at the Birdcage to watch Ruby, and the resulting newspaper article rockets her fame. When given the opportunity to pitch for a minor league team, Ruby agrees.
As her adoring public craves more of Ruby, others of bad intent emerge. The Ku Klux Klan threatens her, the underworld wants to own her, and the baseball commissioner wants to ban her. All Ruby wants is to play ball and shelter her family.
Wallace has written a dramatically powerful story of determination. Ruby faces difficult choices, she is inspiringly special with an innate ability to endure immense hardships. The character genuine, not sainted, but human facing persistent challenges. Based on the life of Jackie Mitchell, Diamond Ruby is a historically uplifting unforgettable journey back to the excitement of the roaring twenties.
Disclosure: This book was given to me by HNR for review. This review originally was published in Historical Novels Review August 2010 issue.
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