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A Song I Knew By Heart: A Novel
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A Song I Knew By Heart: A Novel

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  504 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
During a cold Massachusetts winter, a tragic car accident leaves a mother childless and her daughter-in-law a widow. Naomi and Ruth are now each other’s only comfort. Naomi lost her own husband eight years ago, and now she has lost her son. Carrying a deep secret in her soul, Naomi decides to return to her childhood home in coastal South Carolina. When she tells Ruth her p ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30)
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First off, the cover is what pulled me in. Gotcha! I am not inclined towards Chick-Lit books and I am not sure if this qualifies as one. I don't mind the genre as long as there is depth and good character study, this book had of all of that with a good splashing of creativity. Being a visual artist, I recognized the creativity though at times I think the author lost the creative edge and momentum and tried to grab it back with repetitive prose, at least that is my take. I also didn't understand ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Michelle rated it it was ok
This was not one of my favorite books to say the least. I would have preferred to watch paint dry, it would have been more exciting. Basically in a nutshell is you have the story of Ruth from the bible. Give it a slight modern twist and WALA you have a novel. You have Naomi the main character. Naomi marries Eli. They have a son named Mahlon. Mahlon marries Ruth. Eli dies and Naomi goes to live with her son and daughter-in-law. Mahlon dies in a car accident and Naomi decides to move back to South ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Jacqueline rated it really liked it
A novel that wants to be a twentieth century retelling of the biblical book of Ruth should be awful, yet Lott manages to make it compelling. He presents a cast of very ordinary characters--old women who quilt and play cards, a grocery store clerk, a truck driver--in such a way that you find them beautiful, even remarkable. The Booklist review points to "the way [Lott] elevates the small rituals of everyday life--a child's Thanksgiving drawing, homemade biscuits for breakfast--into transcendent m ...more
Jun 09, 2012 MaryAnn rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book better than I did. The premise -- a modern-day retelling of the story of Ruth & Naomi -- was so promising. But although Bret Lott writes beautifully, this tale is so full of description and lacking in action that I just didn't really enjoy it.
Dec 15, 2008 Anita rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Laura, tamara
Shelves: fiction
This book grabbed my emotions in the first paragraph and carried me through to the end. I haven't been this touched by a book, or a story, in a long time. My hats off to Mr. Lott.
Dec 11, 2008 Andi rated it really liked it
A beautiful novel by Bret Lott, author of "Jewel." "Written in lyrical affecting hymn to family love and a mantra of empathy and forgiveness."--Richmond Times-Dispatch
Donna Goetter
This is one I will need to read over again. I have memory problems and am not 100% sure what to say except this is a story that sounds like Ruth and Naomi from the Bible. A must read. Loved it.
Kim Miller-Davis
Nov 01, 2015 Kim Miller-Davis rated it liked it
This book gets 3 stars because of the gorgeous descriptions of the Carolina Lowcountry, especially the Mount Pleasant side of Charleston. From the beginning, Lott envelops the region in a warm, loving hug that he generously invites his readers to share.
Throughout the novel, it is Lott's obvious love & affection for the area that lifts his story and warms the reader.

Overall, though, it was a disappointing read. A modern day retelling of the biblical story of Naomi and Ruth, the novel moves f
Martha Alami
Jan 16, 2016 Martha Alami rated it it was ok
I am giving this book 2 stars instead of 1 because I have read Jewel and a couple of Lott's other books which I enjoyed. This book can be summed up in one word -- boring. No, two words -- terribly boring. I usually read a book within a few days or a week, but it took me over a month to finish this dull piece of work. Mainly because I could only suffer through a few pages or a chapter at a time. Once I invested time in about 100 pages, I kept going, hoping it would improve. Well, I was wrong. I w ...more
Jul 21, 2008 Judine rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristy Trauzzi
I kept thinking this was an olden day story down in the deep south with a large black family. Then they would say something that would totally contradict that thought (yes, I know I was wrong) and I would be like wait?! WHAT!? lol. So maybe as I read this story there was my version in my head and what was written in the book. I can't imagine losing a husband and a son. I think that's just unfair. Especially when your child is young and the deaths were less than a decade apart.
I envy them the ab
A modern retelling of the story of Ruth, in which Massachusetts equals Moab and South Carolina equals Israel. I'm giving the book low "starage" -- although Lott's descriptions moved me to tears several times, they more often tipped over the edge into maudlin, overly sentimental prose. Also, while I appreciate vivid description, it shouldn't take five pages for someone to make coffee. AND people seemed to be forever touching one another's hands and faces in meaningful ways -- started to make my s ...more
Miko Lee
Jun 30, 2009 Miko Lee rated it it was ok
A tearjerker that according to the author started out as a modern retelling of the biblical Book of Ruth, but turned into a story on the power of women’s love. This Northeast & Southern tale focuses on an elderly woman and her relationship with her daughter in law, 8 years after her beloved husband has died and days later her only child, a son dies. The two women’s bond grows stronger as they travel “home” to the elderly woman’s southern childhood home. I was a bit put off by the constant bi ...more
Rebekah Leland
Sep 09, 2013 Rebekah Leland rated it really liked it
This is An unapologetic retelling of the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, so it couldn't help but be a beautiful story. And it's Brett Lott, so it's well-crafted. I found it very different from his more popular novel, Jewel, though, and not as good. The prose is what people call "beautiful" and "lilting" and "poetic." I found it wearying and overly self-reflective. BUT it is a wonderful story, and at about the half-way mark, right when I was ready to put it down, I found myself weeping at Naomi ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Julie rated it liked it
Lott's writing style is very poetic/lyrical and I also appreciated the modern spin on a Bible story.
I cared about Naomi and Ruth, and as a southern girl myself, I thought the descriptions of their South Carolina family were funny yet accurate.
The book was good, but I would have preferred more action and less rehashing the same feelings over and over. That doesn't mean it should have been done differently to get across the idea of redemption and forgiveness; it just means I am at the beach on vac
Feb 26, 2009 Jessica rated it liked it
I really LOVED the concept of this story, but for me, there were a few big problems. 1) the book moved painfully slow. Although parts of the book were definitely four-star for me, other parts were just terrible, and a two-star at best. 2) A personal preference - I do not like the author's style of writing. Every sentence is composed backwards and/or a run-on. For example, just about every sentence reads something like this: "We two now are heading to the store, out our worn front door to get som ...more
Oct 08, 2011 Julie rated it it was ok
Parts of this book were well-written, others were tediously slow. I kept saying to myself "Get on with it" as I waded through yet another minute description of a room in a firehouse or somebody's kitchen. The cemetery chapter just about did me in. The author kept repeating the same phrases, the same stories. I kept going out of curiosity to see what would happen and how it would parallel the Biblical account, especially the part about the covering of the feet. Let's just say it was appropriate t ...more
Dec 16, 2013 Kent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2014
The Ruth and Naomi story set in 20th-century New England. I decided to read it b/c of that; it's a way of bringing fresh eyes to the familiar biblical story. Naomi tells the story. Very introspective and psychological. The pace is slow all throughout. At first I found that frustrating, but I got used to it, and there may be something beneficial about that. Marriage, family, loss, sin, and forgiveness prominent themes. I plan to read something else by the author.
Feb 10, 2013 Laurie rated it did not like it
This was difficult to enjoy because the writing style was so "Podunk " it came through as though the characters were dull and uneducated. I didn't quite catch the parallel from the Biblical book of Ruth. Details didn't match, and to throw in an adulterous affair did nothing to save the story. I began skimming by the time I was 2/3 of the way through, hoping to pick up a thread of interest. Save your money.
Mar 27, 2010 Brooke rated it liked it
This was a great concept...a modern day story of Ruth and Naomi, but I found the book to be painfully slow! I have liked other books by Bret Lott, but this was not my favorite. I think the writing was good, but it just had a hard time keeping my interest in the story. Beautiful descriptions and very deep and developed characters. An okay read!
Jul 30, 2014 Alesha rated it really liked it
A Song...was unlike anything I've read in a while. It was a somewhat slow, sometimes melancholy read, but enjoyable nonetheless. Brett Lott makes the readers root for Ruth and Naomi, but in a quiet sort of way. It's not salacious, scandalous, nor is it a page-turner, but it's definitely a story worth reading.
Deann Doolittle
Sep 16, 2013 Deann Doolittle rated it it was ok
This is the second book I've read by this author and I think I just don't get him. I liked the storyline of the book but it seemed to be very repetitive. I felt like I was reading the same stuff over and over again. Not a fan of the ending either. I think I'm done reading anything from him for awhile.
Feb 22, 2010 Agitatus rated it liked it
Absolutely beautiful book. A story that you cannot forget, somewhat haunting, somewhat sad. It's funny, but I never finished the book. There is a moment in the story where you could say the novel ends, and it lost so much speed at that point that I did not finish it. But 2/3 of the book is incredible, and still worth it.
Apr 27, 2010 Marsha rated it it was ok
Wanted to love it I mean check out the beautiful cover!!! And I do love the idea of the retelling of Naomi and Ruth from the bible. My problem with it is that I couldnt get into the flow of the language. All the 'might could' and other southern phrasing had me rereading paragraphs right to the end of the book.
Nov 02, 2007 Diana rated it liked it
The story was good but I felt like sometimes the narrative style got in the way of the story itself instead of helping it along. For example, overuse of colloquialisms like "and'd" and "so's" to make her sound more southern just made me stumble over the statement. However, the book had a good message and a compelling story.
Peggy Wolf
Feb 03, 2008 Peggy Wolf rated it really liked it
Recommended to Peggy by: Virginia Wolf
The story of Naomi and Ruth from the Book of Ruth told in todays world. It is hard to get into, but once you are hooked, it's good reading. A Women's novel about love, forgiveness and the pressure we put upon ourselves.
Oct 19, 2011 Mary rated it it was ok
Very s l o w........His writing was better, it seemed to me in Jewel. This one dwelled on the character's each and every thought way to much for my liking.....story couldn't get off the ground. Gave up on it.
Nov 23, 2008 Rhonda rated it liked it
This book was difficult to read. There are so many parrallels in my life and the lives of women I know that at times, I just had to put the book down. Lott has written a tapestry of love and forgiveness. Not a book I'd read again but I definitely believe it is a book worth reading.
Jan 29, 2013 Omi rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I can't say I exactly enjoyed this novel, ( it is too depressing for that ) but I liked the touch of coastal, retro feel it gave. The ending wasn't too bad, and the " back in time " parts made it easier to read through.
Jan 30, 2016 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Retelling the Old Testament story of Ruth...I love the concept, but this was one tedious novel. For the last third of the story I just skipped over the huge chunks of Naomi's repetitive internal thoughts. Was glad to finally reach the last page.
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Bret Lott is the bestselling author of fourteen books, most recently the nonfiction collection Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian (Crossway 2013) and the novel Dead Low Tide (Random House 2012). Other books include the story collection The Difference Between Women and Men, the nonfiction book Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life, and the novels Jewe ...more
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