I have to admit I didn’t read this book, I listened to the audio book while driving to pick up my son from sleepaway camp. I’m typically not a fan of audio books, mostly because I find it harder to carve out the time to listen to a book, but in this case, I think the audio book enhanced the novel. My version was read by the author, Rod Dreher, who has a tendency to fall into a Loo-C-Anna dialect now and then.
At its heart, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming documents the life of Ruthie, Dreher’s sister, before and after she is stricken with lung cancer. While Dreher left his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana, during high school, his sister Ruthie married her high school sweetheart, taught at a local high school, built a home across the street from her parents and raised a family there.
With her diagnosis of cancer comes an outpouring of love and support, a showing Dreher laments he wouldn’t find anywhere but home. He left home to find personal, professional and spiritual fulfillment, but his search has left him largely empty. He frequently changes jobs and locales, converts to Catholicism and then to Orthodoxy, and struggles with a God who would allow cancer to happen to his beloved sister.
As you can expect the novel is heartbreaking. I found myself in tears more than once. It’s also inspirational; it is likely it will make you stop to appreciate your family and rethink your priorities.
Or you might think it is overwrought. While even the most hardened reader will be moved by Ruthie and her battle with cancer, a great deal of the book – more than I expected – details Rod’s struggle with his spirituality after Ruthie passes. If you’re not one for philosophizing and proselytizing, this won’t be your cup of sweet tea.