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The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
Cover of The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life
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THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, 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 2011, 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.S.U. football games, and deer hunting.
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."

THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, 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 2011, 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.S.U. football games, and deer hunting.
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."

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About the Author-
  • Rod Dreher has been an editorial writer and columnist for the Dallas Morning News, a film critic for the New York Post, and currently writes for the American Conservative. He currently lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana with his wife Julie and his three children.
    The Little Way of Ruthie Leming is his second book; his first was Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party).
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 17, 2012
    For author and Dallas Morning News columnist Dreher and his baby sister, Ruthie, their tiny Louisiana parish defined them as they grew up, bringing a sense of belonging to her and a need to escape for him. Family and community meant everything to the townspeople, and they routinely gathered at Dreher’s parents’ home and later his sister’s, but he found himself at odds with his father and sister, yearning for experiences beyond the confining borders of the parish. Dreher writes movingly of the struggles within himself and within his family, in particular with his sister. Ruthie became a schoolteacher with a huge impact on her students, beloved by everybody, but with little patience for what she viewed as her brother’s snobbish and overly intellectual thinking and lifestyle that grew into lifelong resentments. While Ruthie married her high school sweetheart before graduating from college and was content to never go far from her childhood door, Dreher changed jobs and cities multiple times even after settling down with a wife and kids. It wasn’t until his sister is diagnosed at 40 with cancer that he begins to re-evaluate his plans, realizing that after two decades away he is only now able to return, at peace with the decisions he made as he works to get to know his extended family better and tries to forgive and understand them. Through his sister’s life and in her death, Dreher, writing in this tender memoir, learns compassion, gratitude, and to focus on the blessings of the moment. Agent: Gary Morris.

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2013
    A Louisiana-born journalist's memoir of how he came to terms with questions of personal belonging that accompanied his "country mouse" sister's tragically premature death. Dreher (Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots, 2006) was a restless dreamer who never quite went along with "the intolerance, the social conformity [and] the cliquishness" that characterized the rural Southern world into which he was born. His pretty and popular sister Ruthie, however, loved their hometown of St. Francisville and knew that everything she ever wanted in life was "in front of her." When Dreher received his first major career break away from home, he took the job. Ruthie, on the other hand, married and became a schoolteacher who took special interest in children from troubled homes. After the birth of Ruthie's first child in 1993, Dreher felt the unexpected tug of home. His hopes of reintegrating into his family and making peace with his father were soon dashed, and he returned to his peripatetic life as a journalist in 1994. Then, in 2010, he discovered that Ruthie was dying of cancer and returned to St. Francisville with his wife and sons. The outpouring of love and support he saw from the townspeople for his sister made him wonder once again if he had made the right choice to leave. But as he re-engaged with the dying Ruthie and her family, he also saw that his ambitions had stirred deep resentment in the people he loved most. Moved by his sister's courageous battle and the stories of how Ruthie's everyday acts of love had changed the lives of others, Dreher began the difficult process of humbly accepting "the limitations of place" to finally know "the joys that [could] also be found there." Emotionally complex and genuinely affecting.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 2013
    Dreher and his sister, Ruthie, had always been different. While he chafed at their small town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, she was deeply at home and settled. His journalism career took him to New York and Washington, D.C., while she taught school and raised a family with her childhood sweetheart, staying close to the homestead their parents had made. She also stayed close to the rituals, traditions, and spirituality that knit family and community, a closeness and spirituality that fortified Ruthie when she was diagnosed with a virulent cancer. Watching his sister's grace and the kindness of family, friends, and neighbors, Dreher pondered what he'd been missing in his own life and how he might achieve the sense of peace and connection at the center of Ruthie's life. He goes deeper, in search of the reason for the abiding tension in their otherwise loving relationship and for the balance in his own family life that ultimately leads him back to the hometown he once fled. Dreher offers a hard-eyed self-examination and a loving, but complex, portrait of filial love.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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The Little Way of Ruthie Leming
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A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life
Rod Dreher
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