BOOK BIZ: Life in small town can be meaning of love and family

"The Little Way of Ruthie Leming" by Rod Dreher (Published by Grand Central Publishing, $25.99 hardcover).

“The Little Way of Ruthie Leming”
by Rod Dreher (Published by Grand Central Publishing, $25.99 hardcover ).

This work of nonfiction is an ode to family and the meaning of home. It’s part memoir, part tribute and part exploration of the cultural ties that bind. With Mississippi made up of small towns, Mississippi readers can relate to this book. The sub title, “A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life,” says a lot about the heart of Dreher’s story.

Jeremy Burke, owner of Bay Books in Bay St. Louis, likes this book and says anyone can relate to it because it’s a story of love. “There’s no way to read it and not cry,” he said. “Everybody has someone with cancer who means a lot to them. The author decided to embrace his home town and through his sister’s illness learned the importance of life, family and friends.”

Rod Dreher couldn’t wait to get away from small town life in St. Francisville, La., to become a big city journalist. His little sister, Ruthie Dreher Leming, stayed to become a beloved teacher. “He was a bookworm while his sister was a tomboy, hunter, homecoming queen and had lots of friends,” Burke said. “He had big dreams and never wanted to go back to St. Francisville, but starts visiting his sister when she’s dying with cancer.”

Burke quickly adds that this book is positive even though the circumstances of the sister’s illness are sad.

“Everyone in town loves her and comes to see her, which is illuminating for Rod,” Burke said. “Their hometown rallied around her. She was a part of this place, and in her hour of darkness the place sustained her and her family.”

Dreher is drawn back to his hometown, at first as a visitor, to help his sister as her needs multiplied. He is so touched by what he encounters that he and his wife and children move to St. Francisville. “The purity of love these people showed to our family was so intensely beautiful,” Dreher said in a Wall Street Journal interview in April, “that it made the rootless life of the upwardly mobile professional seem spiritually exiguous.”

It’s very hard to go home again — some people say it’s not possible. Dreher found a way to do it. He also wrote a loving testimony to his sister and the town that nourished her.

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