Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

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

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Recently I read The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, a memoir by Rod Dreher focused around his relationship with his sister, Ruthie, and their small town of Starhill, LA.

Ruthie is a home body who marries her high school sweetheart and builds a house on her parents property.  Rod is writer and wanderer who leaves their rural Louisiana town as soon as he can.  First, for boarding school and eventually to become a newspaper writer in NYC.  The book is a contrast between their personality and choices.

Their simmering conflict over leaving and staying comes to a head when she is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  Small town living is shown as its best: rallying around her in her treatments and around her family after she dies.  Rod and his wife look at the social fabric of their lives in the big city.  They decided that no one could care for them in a similar way if something terrible happened, nor do they have the depth of relationship to help others.  In the end they move back to be with the grieving family and to benefit from all that is in Starhill, LA.

Overall I liked the book, Dreher is an excellent writer and his portrayals of small town southern living were vivid.  I read it as I attended my grandfather’s funeral in small town Louisiana and it mirrored much of what I saw around me.  While I don’t read Dreher regularly I appreciate his communitarian spirit: conservatism focused on the good of small community in the modern world.  Sort of a non-Agrarian Wendell Berry.

While I appreciate his writing I’m left unsure about what to do in light of his diagnosis and his solution.  Small town living and staying put is what creates community.   It’s great that his job is portable enough to be done anywhere in America that has an internet connection but that isn’t true for me.  Also, if you are from a place and your family has been there generations, then you can re-graft yourself onto those deep roots and draw the sustenance from them.  But what if you’re not?  What if there isn’t a home to go back to?  What then is the secret to the good life in Dreher’s telling?

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Written by furthermusings

November 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

Posted in General

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