And, given my own interests, I'm also sorry there isn't more politics in the book. There are, to be sure, occasional references to political and economic arguments, but they obviously weren't relevant to this very intimate, family story though I suspect, on the basis of the occasional aside in the book, that at least one element of the long-standing--but never directly expressed--tension between Dreher and his sister was the way his highly intellectual, somewhat elite, and very contrarian conservatism--opposed to the Iraq war, wary of public institutions, intensely focused on the moral health of America--may have clashed with her and his extended family's no doubt much more conventional, populist, and evangelical views.
Finally, Mike Leming, Ruthie's husband, despite the Dreher's best efforts, remains a bit of an enigma; I feel like, as a reader, I see their daughters and their feelings--particularly that of their oldest, Hannah, with whom Dreher has developed a tight bond--more clearly than we see his. But Mike Leming is presented from the beginning as a very quiet, introspective, private man, so perhaps this simply couldn't be helped, and we should be grateful that he opened up to Dreher as much as he did.
My final word on this fine book is simply this: it is the best story about home, family, and community I have in a long, long time. When I next teach my "Simplicity and Sustainability" class next fall , I'm going to present it alongside other memoirs like The Dirty Life or Better Off, not mention classics like Walden, as a way to help my students understand that these "little ways"--ways of tradition and connection--really are available and out there, and aren't just romantic dreams.
I can't and wouldn't want to! On the contrary, little towns with their own Ruthies are out there, and perhaps are, in fact, right in front of our eyes. Most of all, I appreciate very much Rod Dreher sharing with all of us, how he came, at the particular moment in time, came to see what was there to see. May we all, in our own places, do a little bit of the same.
Dec 05, Amanda added it. Good readabout families, sibling relations, and hardship, including cancer. I won't forget Ruthie! Mar 02, Sharon rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction , families. A story about our people and where we come from, told from the perspective of a brother who is different from his only sister. She loves the land and family and stays rooted there, giving of herself always -- even as she fights a deadly cancer. Her brother, who couldn't wait to get away and see the world, is a journalist.
This is about coming home and learning who you are, or can be, and about things you didn't know or understand before. It's about belonging, family and community, and how much w A story about our people and where we come from, told from the perspective of a brother who is different from his only sister. It's about belonging, family and community, and how much we all need that, even when we don't think so.
Feb 19, Ann Lardas rated it it was amazing.
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When you lose your parents, it's like someone stole the roof. But, that's supposed to happen, and by the time we reach that point and stand there vulnerable and exposed, we will be able to rise to the occasion and fashion safe havens for ourselves and our loved ones. When you lose a sibling, it's a different loss, because we foolishly think we will have them forever and we use them as part of the collective memory.
They can finish our sentences and tell us which uncle it was who said what. They When you lose your parents, it's like someone stole the roof. They get our punchlines without us having to retell the joke. And when they are taken, too early for our liking, it is like a chunk of your own heart, memory, self, has been wrenched away. There no longer is someone to "remember that time when" with you. And when those times were not always rosy, the loss leaves you with nobody but God with Whom to work things through.
How does the brain reconcile itself and the heart heal after such a loss? I don't know yet except, with God's help and the love of our friends and family. But I was fascinated by this book, which comes at the whole issue from the other direction. I lost my older brother to cancer at the end of , and many of the issues that I have been working through are covered in depth and detail in Rod Dreher's book "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming".
You don't have to be Orthodox or lose a sibling to get a lot out of this book, and in fact, if you haven't lost a sibling yet, you should go and read it now. No time to waste. Dreher and I are both converts, we both lost a sibling to cancer, and we have lived within a few hours of each other at different times and know an overlapping set of people. And so for me, this book was like looking at photos someone else took of a seminal event in ones life. It is an extremely intimate look at his relationship with his sister, and it asks important questions about how people drift apart and what brings them together.
In his case, it was he who was the intellectual with the degrees who traveled the world while his sister stayed home, married, taught. My brother was the one who did that, finishing Jordanville, getting his Ph. My choices mystified my brother and his puzzled me, up until he became a monk and archimandrite and the happiness which had eluded him before became something he poured fourth from the abundance of his wealth. And so for me, this book is a blessing, the whole issue examined from the other side.
But if you don't have this set of life experiences, you have your own, and this intimate portrait of a town, a family, siblings, love, loss, and the answers to questions we can't ask anyone but God. I hope that you read it, and find it as healing and revealing as I did. Apr 29, Charlane Brady rated it it was amazing.
A powerful story. One that disrupted my life and forced me to take a step back. When I got home, I sat down continuing to read the book. I finished at am. I identified. I laughed. I craved. And at the end, I prayed. I identified with the nuances of a small, Louisiana town and that disagreeing with someone was often mistaken for rejection.
My childhood was spent questioning.
I laughed when I read Ruthie was a homecoming queen that knew how to skin a buck and run a trotline. A prerequisite for Homecoming Queens in my hometown which I take pride in. I cried for my own sibling that passed away when I was a kid. His name was Rod and his death left me questioning even more. I cried for my own making of relationships with my Mom and my sister. Thankful for Dreher's honesty and self-reflection; my own family. I craved my hometown of Olla. The whole lot of it! I prayed for grace and harmony. Not to re-evaluate my past. To evaluate my today. I love a powerful story that disrupts my way of thinking and my way of living.
In ‘Ruthie Leming,’ the road leads to home
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming did just that. Thank you Rod Dreher. I love me some Ruthie Leming. Jul 05, Laurie rated it liked it. Have you ever disliked someone because she was too sweet, too good, too perfect? That's how I felt about Ruthie Leming until she died. There, now that I've confessed that, I can go on and share what I did like in this book. I liked the author, the brother of the sainted Ruthie, whose story kept me reading. He deals with confusion and asks probing questions about relationships and about choices made and about what is real.
I appreciated that realness. This is a true story, but I didn't believe tha Have you ever disliked someone because she was too sweet, too good, too perfect? This is a true story, but I didn't believe that while reading about Ruthie during the first half of the book -- I believe Rod Dreher, though, and that is why the second half of this book, Rod's story, compelled me to read and ask some of my own questions.
Ideas thought about: "Contemporary culture encourages us to make islands of ourselves for the sake of self-fulfillment, of career advancement, of entertainment, of diversion, and all the demands of the sovereign self. When suffering and death come for you, you want to be in a place where you know, and are known. You want -- no, you need -- to be able to say Without humility they could never be happy Accept the limitations of a place, in humility, and the joys that can be found there may open themselves.
May 03, Frank Richardson rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-read. The author Rod Dreher left his native southern Louisiana as soon as he could and began a career as a writer, columnist, blogger, etc and lived in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Dallas, etc. He married and had a family.
His sister, Ruth, stayed home and married her childhood sweetheart, and taught school. This was the type of family structure that the Dreher's had until Ruth was stricken with terminal cancer shortly after she turned Rod make the decision to uproot his family again and move them to h The author Rod Dreher left his native southern Louisiana as soon as he could and began a career as a writer, columnist, blogger, etc and lived in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Dallas, etc. Rod make the decision to uproot his family again and move them to his hometown in southern Louisiana to give up the opportunities of the big city for the closeness and comfort and hopefully, the love of his hometown of souls who join together to care for his sister and her family after her passing.
In her last days, he gives her comfort and she seems to respond because they had conflicts in the years past. He takes his oldest niece on a gift trip to Paris and during this trip she confides to him that his sister continued to hold resentment toward him even as she was welcoming him home and she further opines that he will probably never be accepted back home by her siblings and Rod's reaction to this is what makes the last 75 pages of this book the crowning touch as the author gives a deep recitation on the meaning on love and family and loss.
Nov 23, Lady Jane rated it it was ok Shelves: biography , us-south. I was disappointed by this book, having looked forward to reading it for a long time. I read that the author began interviewing subjects only 4 months after she died and wondered if he would have written the same book had he given himself more time to complete the bereavement process.
Additionally, while I know that Rod Dreher is a very good writer, this long section of the b I was disappointed by this book, having looked forward to reading it for a long time. Additionally, while I know that Rod Dreher is a very good writer, this long section of the book seemed as though he constructed it by piecing together interviews like a patchwork quilt.
However, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming became gripping for me when it transitioned into Rod Dreher's personal analysis of the value of community v. In Dreher's case, born into a family whose roots in the same, small town spanned several generations, community for him was returning to the small town in which he was raised and where his family remained. Community for others might look different. I think anyone pondering similar issues might find Dreher's insight and experience a helpful tool.
Nov 04, Shelli rated it it was amazing Shelves: she-reads-book-club , books-of There was so much to relate to in this book. I was the one who "went away" and have always felt a strong sense of "place" , and I think it's true for some of us, that we may need to leave in order to truly appreciate what we have. This story really captures sibling relationships and the struggles we bear from our youthful perceptions of each other. Can we really warn our children to nurture this relationship while they are young, or do we all have to learn the hard way?
Jan 04, Katie Schuermann rated it really liked it. I sometimes struggle with the self-focused nature of memoirs, but this author beautifully puts the best construction on the real, layered struggles of his family life for the benefit of his neighbor, both his literal neighbor in Louisiana and the reader.
And while I had some difficulty investing in the author's nostalgic remembrances which dominate the first third of the book, I realized by the last page that not a chapter was wasted from start to finish. Sep 29, Ladybute rated it it was amazing.
This book was absolutely beautiful. Yes, it makes you cry, but not in a sentimental over done way. It is very intense, very honest and I cannot imagine there is a person out there who cannot relate to the authors struggles between wanting roots, but still wanting to be himself, to loving our families dearly, but sometimes not being able to relate to them well. There is so much to ponder in this book. Jun 14, Adam rated it it was amazing.
Can's say enough about this book. Loved it. Cried like a baby during much it - hit home in an intense way. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time, I think. Apr 23, Ed Brenegar rated it it was amazing. It is a story of many layers, dealing with the realities of small town life, how we as modern people deal with death, and ultimately, in its own way, a mirror of America in the 21st century reflecting the fragmentation into societal enclaves of rich and Living in the Worlds of Ruthie and Rod Rod Dreher's memoir of his sister, Ruthie, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, is a simple story as the subtitle suggests of "A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life.
It is a story of many layers, dealing with the realities of small town life, how we as modern people deal with death, and ultimately, in its own way, a mirror of America in the 21st century reflecting the fragmentation into societal enclaves of rich and poor, urban and rural, communal and individualistic, and the local and the global. The story is told through the perspective of Rod, Ruthie's older brother, who grew up as the son who sought adventure through the world of ideas as a journalist, living for two decades in Washington, New York, Dallas and Philadelphia.
His ambition was viewed with suspicion by his sister, who thought him "uppity" for leaving the small Louisiana town of St. Francisville and their families corner of that rural world, Starhill. As the teller of the story, he shows his frustration at being mistrusted for his longing for new worlds, as if the world of home was not enough to build a life upon. As Rod tells this story, this conflict between he and his sister is never truly resolved. Ruthie dies without Rod and her truly reconciling the differences that had existed since childhood.
This makes their story more indicative of the way families actually are. This isn't a story with a Hollywood ending, though there is much wisdom and goodness to be discovered in it. Their relationship rings true as symptomatic of many modern relationships. Each are individualists, even Ruthie in her singular focus on family and homeplace, could not see beyond her own individualistic preference to see that her brother was pursuing his own desire for meaning in life.
Her care for her students, believing in those from the most impoverished, least advantageous backgrounds, stands in contrast to her relationship with Rod. Having spent some time with Rod as he came to Asheville on his book tour, I identify with how family relationships are sometimes much more difficult than our social and professional relationships. In effect, there was only an upside in believing that her students could become anything that they set their mind to doing. But there is conflict within a family when the family traditions are not sufficient to hold some members at home.
I see this attachment to the past, which is what it is, as a way many people refuse to address the realities of the contemporary world, and as a result end up denying not only their responsibility to a wider world, but also their potential for making a difference that matters.
For me this relationship between Rod and Ruthie is the most interesting in the book, and worth reading by families so that conversation about expectations can be had. We also see that small town life, for all its communal closeness, is not idyllic. There is a tendency not to be able to see beyond one's own self-interest and that that of one's clan. Urban and suburban communities can be just as self-interested, just as easily denying an obligation to care for those who are less well off. However, what distinguishes this story is the character of Ruthie Leming. For all her narrowness about her small town, she was a woman of extraordinary love and caring for people beyond her family.
In fact, it is quite evident that her impact is global and not just local because of the care she gave to her students. It is people like Ruthie who make communities worth living in. The question is why are there not more like her. I hope the book inspires people waiting for something to move them into action to become more like Ruthie. Small towns have advantages that big city life has a much more difficult time providing. Namely the closeness of family and friends who meld into one's family in ways that a cosmopolitan existence cannot afford.
The ease that people move in and out of the Leming household during and after her death from cancer; how the community rallies to raise money for Ruthie's hospital bills through a concert, and how the spirit of Ruthie served as a bond for community that made life in their little community richer, are pictures of life in rural communities. Rod tells his own story as a contrast to Ruthie's. He is like many people I know who are very cosmopolitan in their tastes. They find it easy to move between various cultures, finding commonality with people from all points on the globe.
Yet, as his sister goes through her bout with cancer, the pull of family and Louisiana eventually uproots the Dreher family from their life in Philadelphia as they move home to Starhill. Family and place are two of the three themes that make this book a thought-provoking, engrossing read.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
However, it is the question of the communal and familial nature of death and dying that is played out in Ruthie's illness which may be the most important insight that Dreher provides. As an ordained minister, who has been in and out of pastoral roles in churches over the past three decades, I can say that we American's do not deal with death well.
For Ruthie, she faced it by denial. She trusted her physicians to do the right thing. She went about her life as if the cancer did not have a hold upon her. As a result, she did not talk with her daughters about her illness. As Dreher notes, she answered her daughters questions truthfully, what few questions they did ask. So, she proceeds on with life and then it ends suddenly without notice. What is clear is that death affects families differently than one's circle of friends. Her friends come to the home and celebrate her life the next day.
But her family lives daily with her absence. Life never being quite the same without Ruthie at the center of it. Reading her story, I was taken back to my own parents' deaths. My mother at the age of 48 in her sleep while on vacation. My father just three years ago this week from a sepsis infection that he acquired following knee surgery. For my mother, I had not seen her in two weeks. She was gone without any time to prepare.
I am still numb 35 years later. For my father, we knew he would not survive, so my sisters and I had the time to say good bye. In both cases, the relational vacuum created by their passing is never filled. I'm certain this remains true for the Dreher and Leming families of Starhill. As I had time with Rod last weekend, we talked about Ruthie.
I told him that I had a strong identification with her. Her relationships with people are similar to mine. Her belief in people is very much like mind. I have said in many settings that "I believe in people so they can believe in themselves. I understand her, her motivations and the way she led her life. I also understand the choices that Rod made as a young man, the course of his life, as I made similar choices that led me away from my family to seek a course in life that we often call ambition or purpose. There is not a simple, single choice to be made between country or city living, or between family and ambition.
There are choices we make every day about the kind of person we wish to be, and the life we want for ourselves and our families. In effect, life is lived one day at a time, one relational encounter at a time, with intervening moments of decisions that mark the long course that our lives take. The Little Way of Ruthie Leming is an important book. It is a book to be read and savored in conversation with family and friends. Rod Dreher's story isn't about everyone moving back to their home town. It is rather about being much more conscious that all our decisions carry with them both positive and negative implications.
Ruthie Leming's life made a difference that mattered to the people of West Feliciana Parish. Rod Dreher's life through his writing is also making a difference by the telling of Ruthie's story. And we the readers of his fine book are the beneficiaries of both of their lives, and for that reason we are richer for it. In Addition Here's an additional thought that I had about the book that I posted to my Facebook page. It is such a honest and real book. It is one of truth as it deals with the pain and suffering of life, which is, in large part, familial and relational.
I've been having conversations recently with people my age about how many of us in our 50s and 60s are really unhappy. The people I'm thinking of have achieved everything that wanted. Yet, to talk with them there is a hard edge of bitterness lingering in the background. They aren't happy. I've come to the conclusion that this is so because all their relationships are structured to be professional and non-intrusive. The conversations are built around opinions and making distinctions between people who are with us and those who aren't. It is such a defensive posture to life. No wonder they are unhappy.
In Rod's book, it is James Toney, son of Miss Clophine Toney, his childhood friend, who became an evangelist who says it best as he eulogizes his mother. Because there was so much sacrifice. She sacrificed everything she made, just to give. I wonder about these people I'm thinking of and their unhappiness. Do they have anyone whom they truly sacrifice to love? What is it that they are giving up for others? Or do they see their giving and sacrifice as a kind of victimization? This is the hard truth of love, that without sacrifice, there is no love, just connection. First, I hope you'll read this book.
Second, I hope you'll give this book to family and friends. Third, I hope you'll find someone in that group of people with whom you can talk about the wisdom that can be found in this book. Happiness isn't a commodity you buy at the store. It is a product of relationship and living a life where giving, and, yes, sacrifice, are part of what gives life its joy. In a recent blog post, What Defines Us? To love is to give. To give is to live a life where meaning, happiness, health and impact flow from the daily experience of seeking to fulfill the potential that we each have to make a difference that matters.
Read the book. Apr 30, Kara Larson rated it really liked it Shelves: christian-living , historical , biography-autobiography. Read for book club and really loved this thought provoking story on community, family, big vs small town life, vocation, conflict, siblings, religion and overall how the choices we make in life and the way we treat others affects our life. She saw something good in everybody, even as a child. People dropped by constantly, and stayed for dinner—and sometimes into the night, even during the week. They wanted to be around Mam and Paw, who were boundlessly hospitable.
He was the kid of man you wanted to please because he seemed so strong, so wise, and so good. Be reconciled, if you can. None of us do. Change your life. You have no idea how urgent until you get a phone call like I receive this morning. And they were there. Do you know what that means? People were there. You were her family, you were always comfortable Everybody was welcome in her house. You knew you were at home there, and everything was good. Not everyone is meant to stay—or to stay away—forever.
There are seasons in the lives of persons and of families. Our responsibility, both to ourselves and to each other, is to seek harmony within the limits of what we are given—and to give each other grace. Apr 22, E rated it really liked it. Rod Dreher presents a frank yet tender look at the events surrounding his sister's death from cancer and his own family's return to live in the small Louisiana town where he grew up and the rest of the family continued to live. Dreher left for good reasons, and returning was not easy to see just how difficult, read How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem , yet it seemed the right thing to do for the good of all involved.
Dreher's sister, Ruthie, was not Rod Dreher presents a frank yet tender look at the events surrounding his sister's death from cancer and his own family's return to live in the small Louisiana town where he grew up and the rest of the family continued to live. Dreher's sister, Ruthie, was not a perfect person, as he makes clear, and yet she was a remarkable woman, well worthy of this memoir. She was compassionate and generous, yet always had a chip on her shoulder regarding her brother's moving away. The tension was not resolved before her death, and it clearly weighs heavily upon Dreher. Yet it took a lot of humility to return home, and Dreher and his wife, Julie, were not unaware of the challenges.
You can see the beginnings in this book of what Dreher has gone on to call the "Benedict Option," the creation of strong Christian communities to serve as an alternative to mainstream culture. Dreher is a compelling writer and prodigious! May 17, Unchong Berkey rated it really liked it. Themes of growing up, family tension despite deep love for one another, and small town living-all interwoven in the true story of Ruthie Leming and the cancer that took her life.
The little way of Ruthie Leming : a southern girl, a small town, and the secret of a good life
It hits all the melancholy notes, and it will move you. Oct 04, Catherine rated it it was amazing. So touching. I think I cried most of my way through Ruthie's storie. Her si pimple approach to life was refreshing. It reminds you that family is more important than things. She saw good in everyone. The characters were real and the love for each other was strong. A good recipe for life. I will read this again later in life. Mar 27, Laurie Larson-Doornbos rated it really liked it. If they do not know one another's stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another?
People who do not trust one another do not help one another, a moreover they fear one another. And this is our predicament now. Therese, the little flower, in the memoir's title. Because I've had a sort of a crush on David Brooks for years my husband knows that Friday's Newshour when Brooks shares a spot with Mark Shields is a sacred time.
And as an adult convert to Catholicism, I seriously considered Therese as my confirmation name because of her devotion to doing ordinary things with extraordinary love. Dreher recounts his life growing up in St. Francisville Louisiana and the restlessness and discontent that small town life brought him. As many young people do, he rather clumsily made his way out into the wider world, shaking the dust from his feet and hurting although never intentionally the ones who loved him most.
Or so he thought. It was the illness of his younger sister, Ruthie Lemming that brought him back to St. Ruthie adored Rod as little sisters typically do, despite that fact that for all of Dreher's turning inward, she was bent on reaching outward and touching lives, and just as he spurned small town life, Ruthie embraced it.
And embrace it she did--because whether she was baking, fishing, star-gazing, or dancing, Ruthie lived life as few people do. She was head over heels for her high school sweetheart, her children were the apple of her eye, and friends were for life. Co-workers adored her and her church family was just that: family. Ruthie gave her heart to the children she taught with passion and there was no problem that couldn't be fixed with love. All this made reading of her illness a particularly virulent lung cancer even more devastating.
For this Little Flower suffered much--physically, of course, but even more in the knowledge that her illness and death caused those she loved so much pain. Typical Ruthie, Dreher would say. But Dreher is wise enough to know that no saint, even Ruthie, is without those frailties that worry us all. There was friction with her teenaged daughter Hannah and an unspoken rift between Ruthie and Dreher for years. It's that honesty that made Ruthie's story so compelling. The story of Ruthie's life and death is especially powerful in the way it gives the reader this one anyway pause to examine his or her own life.
That was certainly true for her brother, who mindfully returned with his family to the home town he once left. The question I kept coming back to was whether or not my life impacts others as Ruthie's did. Sadly, many of us might not want to know the answer. I also became drawn to Dreher's idea of community, something so lacking in contemporary American culture today. My hope for other readers is that Ruthie's life, and Dreher's can serve as a road map, of sorts, leading us to find that "place where you know, and are known Francisville, Louisiana pop. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in , Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteacher.
He was also struck by the grace and courage with which his sister dealt with the disease that eventually took her life. In Louisiana for Ruthie's funeral in the fall of , Dreher began to wonder whether the ordinary life Ruthie led in their country town was in fact a path of hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness, concealed within the modest life of a mother and teacher. In order to explore this revelation, Dreher and his wife decided to leave Philadelphia, move home to help with family responsibilities and have their three children grow up amidst the rituals that had defined his family for five generations-Mardi Gras, L.
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.