A Virtuous Woman
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A Virtuous Woman

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  16,280 ratings  ·  399 reviews
The story of a relationship between a carefully raised daughter of Carolina gentry and a skinny tenant farmer who had never owned anything in his life.
Hardcover, 158 pages
Published January 28th 1997 by Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (first published 1989)
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I should have been wary of this book since Oprah picked it for her book club, and I rarely appreciate her picks. But I had liked Charms for the Easy Life by this same author. I think my problem this time was simply my expectations. It's not a bad book, but not what I hoped for after reading the back cover. I expected a good love story. The main characters did love each other, but the book was mostly descriptions of all the unpleasant things that happened in their lives, culminating with him tryi...more
Beautifully written, A Virtuous Women, is the quiet love story of Ruby Pitt Woodrow, daughter of a rich farmer, and Jack Stokes, a tenant farmer. At first they seem an unlikely match, Ruby, although 20 years younger than Jack, is already widowed, Jack, unattractive and unsuccessful, has never been married. But both have had tough lives. Ruby is alienated from her parents due to her brief marriage which was a disaster. She is working as a maid when she meets Jack. Jack has never had much, althoug...more
Have you ever read a book and felt so distant from it shocked you when you realized you were actually in tears? This novel, such a quick read that a devoted reader will finish it in one sitting, seems so benign and irrelevant, yet works its way into your heart. By the end I found myself shockingly gulping for air. This may be an Oprah pick, but it's a smart book that I'd recommend to anyone who can appreciate a simple story line and a solid tale.
Melinda McGuire
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was a very spare novel about a husband and wife, Ruby and Jack. The author alternates the POV between the two. I found the vernacular a little confusing at first, and the switching between narrators had me flipping back and forth to see who was speaking. The last two or three chapters were told by other narrators, and that was interesting.

The book gives a very intimate look into their lives. You find out early on that Ruby is dying of lung cancer. It reminded me of some of Annie Proulx's b...more
My interest in this story was initially poked during one of my husband’s daily devotion. That day’s lesson was entitled Greatness written by Brian K. Bauknight and the Bible reference was from Proverbs 31:10-31. That day was my birthday.

A virtuous woman, Ruby was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Instead of worrying on her dying state, she busied herself preparing food for her husband for the months ahead… when she’s already gone. She was more worried about how Jack will get by without her.

Being orp...more
Kaye Gibbon's tells a sweet love story about a relationship that seems to be based on circumstance and convenience. It's not the usual torrid and obstacle ridden love affair that usually dictates a good romance novel (ie The Notebook). I found the book to be touching and very sad.
Linda Lipko
After reading Ellen Foster, I thought I simply had to read more by this author. I made a special trip to the library to obtain another.

I was disappointed. While I realize it is difficult to follow one superb book with another, this one fell flat, was choppy, was boring and I'm very glad I read Ellen Foster first or I would not have continued to read more.

Ruby Trip is privileged by southern, small-town farm standards. She has loving parents who dote on her and who can afford food on the table and...more
Dec 15, 2008 Kara rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody who wants boredom seizures or hillbillies
One of the reviews on this book was from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. Their review states, "So true and so vital I would swear there were moments when A VIRTUOUS WOMAN actually vibrated in my hands." When I read that review, I just knew that this book would be a 'good read.' I was so disappointed with this book. The only vibrating that I experienced while reading this book was when I experienced convulsions from a boredom seizure. I didn't like the characters-- except for Mavis, a...more
We read this book for Book Club. I think it's a well written account of the love between an ordinary man and woman. Their love is a deep and abiding one. The alternating narratives are an interesting way to tell the stories of Ruby and Jack. Their distinct voices are recognizable after the first couple of chapters. When Ruby and Jack reflect on life, love, and the hereafter, their simple language manifests a surprising depth of spirit.
I read this book in 1997 and wrote a letter to the Oprah Book Club hoping to be invited to be on the show to have dinner with the author. I'm serious. I thought I could get chosen.

I was at my monthly pedicure appointment with my feet in water when my cell phone rang. It was my son who said I should probably come home because the Oprah Show had just called and was going to call back. I jumped out of the water and went running home in time to get the second call.

The producer asked me questions abo...more
This beautifully-written novel is the story of the marriage between Ruby and Jack, tenant farmers in mid-20th century Georgia. They meet at the end of Ruby's brief and disastrous marriage to a brutal drifter and don't fall in love so much as fall together. Yet their relationship endures and deepens into a quiet and profound love. Gibbons captures the rhythms and styles of her character's speech so perfectly that you can literally hear the timbres of their voices and see their facial expressions...more
So good. I cried a lot, good thing it was short. The story was told from two perspectives alternating every other chapter between Blinking Jack Stokes and his wife Ruby. The story begins by telling us that Jack has recently lost his wife, so his narration is in the present, while Ruby's are right before she passed away. Both chapter gives background of their courtship, love, and unbreakable bond. The story takes place in a rural farming community and is a wonderful mixture of humour, seriousness...more
E. C. Haynes
Meh. Started strong and drew me in, but then slowly fell apart.
Stacy Allbritton
If you love the voice of Kaye Gibbons, you will love this book - scant on description and details, but overflowing with emotion and sentiment. I loved the characters Jack and Ruby - two disparate human beings who found each other in a world where that doesn't always happen. It's not the typical "people from different backgrounds" story. It's so much more than that - finding what makes life work through the connection to another human. I didn't think I could love any of her novels more than Ellen...more
Emma (NeverEnding TBR)
I really loved this book. I picked it up because the title intrigued me and it seemed like a short easy read, which it was. I found myself surprised by the richness of it all. I didn't think that you could feel so connected to so many characters in such a short amount of time. Ms. Gibbons crafts such complex characters, who all have very distinct voices, and paints an entire relationship so beautifully. She is clearly a very talented author and I cannot wait to get my hands onto more of her nove...more

I'd begun reading this ages ago. started over during the days my own mother was dying, reading next to her, and then not touching the book again until several days after she passed. finished last night, not two weeks after losing her, and not a year since my own partner died. the writing is perfect in its evocation of grief and care and love.
Part of Oprah's book club... and now I know why. Concise, provacative, and sassy. I really enjoyed it and read in in just a couple days. I plan on reading more of her books. Does contain some 'farmer language.' This is the kind of book that makes me want to write.
Angela Anderson
I didnt really care for this book. It wasn't bad, it just didnt captivate me, it was something to do, more than a book I couldn't put down... I actually read up to the last 10 pages and didnt bother to finish, I just wasnt that interested....
A very simple story about a woman at the end of her life told by her and her husband. They are good people who work hard and hope for the best. There is not a lot going on as far as plot, and its more of a character study of not only the "virtuous woman" but also of her husband who also tells his side of the story in alternating chapters.

My problem with this book, is that it read somewhat like a series of unfortunate events that happened to these two virtuous people. It is still a good book tha...more
This is a meaningful story about the basics of life: love, choices, struggle, understanding. It is an austere story of common people making the same common mistakes that are found throughout humanity. A young girl makes immature choices in life and marriage and quickly regrets these. She finds redemption through an unlikely partner. This is a very giving story. It has a generous feel that seems set forth purposefully by the author from the outset. We see and understand the couple of Jack and Rub...more
Oct 12, 2008 Valerie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Marcia or Matt
Shelves: autographed
There is a scene in this book that still he haunts me, I won't mention it because its a spoiler moment, but I still remember a friend telling me about his identical experience.
I read (and re-read, and re-read...) Kaye Gibbons' first novel (Ellen Foster) when it came out and loved it.

This one was published a few years later, and I was afraid of sophomore slump -- but it's also excellent. Gibbons captures so beautifully the rhythms and colloquialisms of the dialects of the southern US, without making things oddly-spelled or hard to read. Alternating the voices of Jack & Ruby, the novel tells the story of their 20-year relationship, and in doing so shows the generosi...more
While I found the voices of the narrators endearing, others may find that the book moves too slow and falls short of reaching “page turner” status. I honestly think the style of writing may be off-putting for those that like a more staccato and unmistakable voice in their narrator. However, even if the language isn’t your preferred style, I encourage you to stick with this one. Why?

Well, because when we look beyond the language we have a beautifully narrated story about a love that exists betwee...more
I was hoping that this book would be more engaging instead of being so stark, harsh and at times, simply cruel. Most characters appeared so impaired, exposing themselves to horrible predicaments and struggling to resurge.
I did find one passage particularly hilarious however. When Jack reluctantly agrees to hire a woman to help clean his home, Mavis strolls briefly into his life. Upon her first day at work, she arrives much later than anticipated, then spends the majority of the morning simply g...more
A Virtuous Woman tells the story of a marriage. I loved the common-language prose, the alternation of chapters between husband and wife, and the exploration of the secret country that is long-term relationship. You get the frustration and disappointment of living with and counting on another fallible human. Also the vicissitudes of connection and affection. And the deep well of love and hope and forgiveness that comes with sharing a life.

I was less smitten by the additional characters, especiall...more
Alli Elggren
I listened to this audiobook for Book Club in July because all the copies were out at the library. It's a simple little book, with alternating chapters narrated by husband and wife. The author, Kaye Gibbons read the part of the wife and she has such an appealing Southern drawl! I looked forward to the chapters she read. In a nutshell, this is a book about a relationship between 2 very flawed yet brutally honest people, Ruby and Jack. It's an unlikely relationship, but it works. The book has seve...more
Erin W
Kaye Gibbons is an author I keep trying to like, because she has a whole pile of books she’s written, and she’s contemporary and she’s Southern. I hated Divining Women and I hated Sights Unseen, so A Virtuous Woman, which I mostly liked, is definitely an improvement. The story—about an improbably compatible couple and how their happy marriage is cut short by cancer—was the most interesting one I’d come across of Gibbons’, and the characters the most likeable.

The problem with Gibbons though, is h...more
A Virtuous Woman

Reason for Book’s Selection: The back cover made the story sound interesting—I was in the mood for a simple love story as well as a story that celebrates simplicity.

Characterization: There are few characters in the book.

Narration: The point-of-view moves between Ruby and Blinking Jack. In the last chapters of the novel, another character narrates about Jack. The author chose to shift the chapters in this manner long before it became common in the genre.

Description: Description...more

It was fine enough, interesting enough to listen to, but kind of weirdly so short and the story threads didn't really wrap up at all. Mostly it just kind of floated around - this guy who married a younger woman who had lung cancer, and yet not very sad or detailed or I don't know. Told alternatingly from both of their perspectives. Seemed like it was set in an earlier time period than it was.

Lacking some details that would have set it nicely, and then spending a lot of time on some characters...more
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Kaye Gibbons was born in 1960 in Nash County, North Carolina, on Bend of the River Road. She attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying American and English literature. At twenty-six years old, she wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster. Praised as an extraordinary debut, Eudora Welty said that "the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and...more
More about Kaye Gibbons...
Ellen Foster Charms for the Easy Life On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon A Cure for Dreams Sights Unseen

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“It took me a long time to learn that mistakes aren't good or bad,
they're just mistakes, and you clean them up and go on.”
“Unless society came out past Flat Rock Crossroads, kept on past Booker T. High School, hung two rights, a left, turned in on Milk Farm Road and found Roland plowing a tobacco field, jerked him off the tractor, warped him and set him back up there without anybody riding by and noticing, blame can't be laid on society.” 4 likes
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