Friday, April 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (October 14, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451643535


Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, here is the first-ever prequel to one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of all time, Gone with the Wind. The critically acclaimed author ofRhett Butler’s People magnificently recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, from her days as a slave girl to the outbreak of the Civil War.

“Her story began with a miracle.” On the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, an island consumed by the flames of revolution, a senseless attack leaves only one survivor—an infant girl. She falls into the hands of two French émigrés, Henri and Solange Fournier, who take the beautiful child they call Ruth to the bustling American city of Savannah.

What follows is the sweeping tale of Ruth’s life as shaped by her strong-willed mistress and other larger-than-life personalities she encounters in the South: Jehu Glen, a free black man with whom Ruth falls madly in love; the shabbily genteel family that first hires Ruth as Mammy; Solange’s daughter Ellen and the rough Irishman, Gerald O’Hara, whom Ellen chooses to marry; the Butler family of Charleston and their shocking connection to Mammy Ruth; and finally Scarlett O’Hara—the irrepressible Southern belle Mammy raises from birth. As we witness the difficult coming of age felt by three generations of women, gifted storyteller Donald McCaig reveals a portrait of Mammy that is both nuanced and poignant, at once a proud woman and a captive, and a strict disciplinarian who has never experienced freedom herself. But despite the cruelties of a world that has decreed her a slave, Mammy endures, a rock in the river of time. She loves with a ferocity that would astonish those around her if they knew it. And she holds tight even to those who have been lost in the ravages of her days.

Set against the backdrop of the South from the 1820's until the dawn of the Civil War, here is a remarkable story of fortitude, heartbreak, and indomitable will—and a tale that will forever illuminate your reading of Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable classic, Gone with the Wind.


I was immediately drawn to the novel Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig, because it is a book that is about Mammy, the slave from the book Gone with the Wind who basically raised Scarlett O’Hara. When I was younger, I watched the movie Scarlett, which is the sequel to Gone with the Wind, and fell completely in love with Scarlett O’Hara, Mammy, Rhett, and the rest of the characters. Shortly after watching that movie, I begged my mom to get the movie Gone with the Wind for me, so she did, and I absolutely loved it, and watched it over and over again.  When I was a little older I decided to read the book, and I fell even more in love with the story, because as with all books vs. movies, the book has so much more detail and there is so much that the movie doesn’t show. Anyways, I was pretty sure that I was going to like this novel right away, and I was not disappointed.

Mammy (Ruth) is brought to Georgia from Santa Domingo after her parents are killed during an uprising by her great-grandmother, Solange, and that is how she becomes a part of the household that will lead to her becoming Scarlett’s Mammy. Ruth’s life spans over 60 years, and during those 60 years she experiences so many different things in life. From heartaches to happiness and everything in between. She raised three generations of Scarlett’s family, and helped to love, protect, and care for her white owners, even though she was just a slave.

The writing style is smooth and descriptive, and you can clearly picture what the author is describing on the pages. I can’t even imagine the amount of research that had to have gone into this novel in order to make sure it was historically accurate, and to make sure that it went along with Margaret Mitchell’s books as well. I can definitely appreciate a great book that obviously took a lot of hard work and research to put together and this one did. The only thing I would say that might have improved it a little, would be if the book had focused a little more on Ruth’s voice. I felt like Ruth was sometimes a passive observer as her life was talked about, rather than an active participant. It would have been nice to get more of a feel of who she was. However, that was just a small thing, and didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I give this novel a FOUR out of FIVE stars.


“Exquisitely imagined, deeply researched, Donald McCaig's Ruth's Journey brings to the foreground the most enigmatic and fascinating figure in Gone With the Wind. This is a brave work of literary empathy by a writer at the height of his powers, who demonstrates a magisterial understanding of the period, its clashing cultures and its heartbreaking crises.” (Geraldine Brooks, author of March)

“Rich with sympathy and telling prose…McCaig’s prequel proves engaging and satisfying,” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"A much-needed fleshing out of one of the original book’s three major characters." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Donald McCaig is the award-winning author of Canaan as well as Jacob’s Ladder, designated “the best Civil War novel ever written” by the Virginia Quarterly. It won the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction. He was chosen by the Margaret Mitchell estate to write Rhett Butler’s People, an authorized sequel to Gone with the Wind. He lives on a sheep farm in the mountains near Williamsville, Virginia, where he writes fiction, essays, and poetry, and trains and trials sheep dogs.



  1. Super interesting! Mammy was one of my favorite characters in GWTW, and I think the lives of slave women like her were so important and interesting to hear about. Thanks for telling us about this book! It sounds like one to check out.

  2. Mammy was a fav of mine too! This will be a great read for sure! I will look it up on that is where I have found most of my recent reads. It's an ebookstore that has a pay if you want to option after you have read the book, you don't have to pay if you don't like the book and you can pay what you think it's worth if you want, we use it for book club and I use it for my personal reads. It's a great deal for readers I think.