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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,357 ratings  ·  430 reviews
THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteache ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2013)
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Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I also heard some sort of feature about this book on NPR and thought it sounded fascinating. I am always game to read a memoir about death and the way that people react to it, and I was curious about the issue of community in cities and small towns that is at the heart of the book.

I regret to inform that I did not love the book. Aside from the fact that I just don't think it's very well written -- clunky sentences, all kinds of recounting of feelings during conversations/events that are clearly
Amy Rogers
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
First, let me explain my perspective as a reader. I don't normally read this book's genre: no memoir, no EAT PRAY LOVE for me. I picked up THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING because of a feature I heard on NPR. I was attracted by the theme of small-town community vs big-city isolation, and my own life experience sounded somewhat similar to the author's.

So I cannot compare this book to similar feel-good books of popular wisdom. I bet it compares favorably: Rod Dreher writes well, and this book had e
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found a review of this book in a small journal that none of my friends read (First Things, the Journal of Religion and Public Life. Highly recommended.) So I thought that this book would also be one of those "under the radar" gems. Halfway through the book, I heard interviews on NPR, saw reviews in other journals, and heard reading friends talking about it.

Sidebar: "Reading friends" is a retronym. That is a term that used to stand on its own, but due to changing situations, now requires a pref
May 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I heard this book featured on NPR and thought it sounded lovely. As a person who has family in a small town while I and my family live in the Washington, DC area, I felt like I could relate to that inner conflict the author grappled with before moving back home after the death of his sister.

Unfortunately, I didn't love the book. And I hate to speak ill of the dead but I thought his sister came off sounding petty and immature. If anything, this book reaffirmed for me that small town life is not
Tonia Metz
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to read this book because of the connection to my home town. I would see Mrs. Leming at school and church functions. I can not say I had a close personal relationship with her. Seeing how much she was loved in our community made me want to read the story of her life.

This was the most emotional experience I have ever had reading a book. Rod Dreher put you in the exact time and place as all the people introduced in the book. I felt the happiness, closeness, bonds, hurt, agony, anger and
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Here's the thing I want you to know about Rod Dreher: He evokes a loving but imperfect family in rural Louisiana, a bucolic oasis along the Mississippi River that paradoxically threatens to drown him in his youth, a life-changing experience at the Cathedral de Chartres near Paris, a brush with death on 9/11, a career climb through the corridors of big-city journalism, a spiritual search along orthodox and unorthodox paths, the small miracles of marriage, the burdens and joys of fatherhood, and t

Lance Kinzer
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought a lot about Walker Percy while reading this book. Walker Percy who teaches that we live in a deranged age where “man had not the faintest idea who he is or what he is doing”; Walker Percy who suggests that “Home may be where the heart is but it's no place to spend Wednesday afternoon”; and Walker Percy who counsels that, “It is not a bad thing to settle for the Little Way, not the big search for the big happiness but the sad little happiness of drinks and kisses, a good little car and ...more
The Book Maven
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Someone has to stay home and tend to the family and the farm, and it sure wasn’t going to be Ron Dreher—since he was an adolescent, he had been yearning to escape the small Southern community in which he had been raised. And escape he did, going away to boarding school and college and a thriving career as a journalist. Staying home fell to his younger sister Ruthie, who was temperamentally suited for a life of early marriage, school teaching, and living the good life in her hometown, never stray ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although this book speaks a great deal about Christian faith (and I am not of the same mind set), I found it wonderfully written. The story is powerful, and the message is clear: what we really have in life is the love we give and receive. Ruthie chose life in a small southern town which meant she had less excitement, less cultural opportunity, less chance for varied experiences than her more cosmopolitan brother. But when she was attacked by a vicious cancer, she had an entire community of frie ...more
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible read! In today's mobile and dispersed society, we underestimate (or simply ignore) the importance of community. Of being part of something, someones that gives new meaning to "I've got your back." Dreher's tribute (not canonization) to his sister, their community, and the relationships within that community will not leave your heart untouched. Read it--you'll be glad you did! ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
None of us is ever able to try all the lives we wanted to live. We try to guess which life will lead to the greatest happiness, set off on our course, and hope that if we decide to start over on a new path, we'll realize it before we get too far down the road.

When Rod Dreher was growing up, he was sure he wanted out of the small town in Louisiana where he had been raised. His sister Ruthie was sure of the exact opposite. She never wanted to leave. Their paths diverged early and, as is always the
Russell Fox
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Rod Dreher's new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life, is a wonderful bit of writing--part biography (of his younger sister Ruthie, who died cancer in 2011), part memoir (of his own relationship with Ruthie and with their parents and with the tiny town they both grew up in--Starhill, near St. Francisville, in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana--from which he left and she remained), and part reflective essay on the mysteries of the ties ...more
Dec 05, 2017 added it
Good read---about families, sibling relations, and hardship, including cancer. I won't forget Ruthie! ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: families, nonfiction
A story about our people and where we come from, told from the perspective of a brother who is different from his only sister. She loves the land and family and stays rooted there, giving of herself always -- even as she fights a deadly cancer. Her brother, who couldn't wait to get away and see the world, is a journalist. This is about coming home and learning who you are, or can be, and about things you didn't know or understand before. It's about belonging, family and community, and how much w ...more
Ann Lardas
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When you lose your parents, it's like someone stole the roof. But, that's supposed to happen, and by the time we reach that point and stand there vulnerable and exposed, we will be able to rise to the occasion and fashion safe havens for ourselves and our loved ones. When you lose a sibling, it's a different loss, because we foolishly think we will have them forever and we use them as part of the collective memory. They can finish our sentences and tell us which uncle it was who said what. They ...more
Charlane Brady
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A powerful story. One that disrupted my life and forced me to take a step back.

I started reading The Little Way of Ruthie Leming on a flight back to San Francisco from visiting my Mom, my sister and my niece for Mother’s Day. When I got home, I sat down continuing to read the book. I finished at 4:00am.

I identified. I laughed. I cried. I craved. And at the end, I prayed.

I identified with the nuances of a small, Louisiana town and that disagreeing with someone was often mistaken for rejection.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Have you ever disliked someone because she was too sweet, too good, too perfect? That's how I felt about Ruthie Leming until she died. There, now that I've confessed that, I can go on and share what I did like in this book.

I liked the author, the brother of the sainted Ruthie, whose story kept me reading. He deals with confusion and asks probing questions about relationships and about choices made and about what is real. I appreciated that realness. This is a true story, but I didn't believe tha
Frank Richardson
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read
The author Rod Dreher left his native southern Louisiana as soon as he could and began a career as a writer, columnist, blogger, etc and lived in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Dallas, etc. He married and had a family. His sister, Ruth, stayed home and married her childhood sweetheart, and taught school. This was the type of family structure that the Dreher's had until Ruth was stricken with terminal cancer shortly after she turned 40. Rod make the decision to uproot his family again and move them to h ...more
Lady Jane
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: us-south, biography
I was disappointed by this book, having looked forward to reading it for a long time. The first 3/4 or so read awkwardly like an overly long, hagiographic obituary of the author's tragically deceased sister. I read that the author began interviewing subjects only 4 months after she died and wondered if he would have written the same book had he given himself more time to complete the bereavement process. Additionally, while I know that Rod Dreher is a very good writer, this long section of the b ...more
The American Conservative
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: our-authors
"The Little Way of Ruthie Leming isn’t quite what one expects. The title alludes to the little way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, but Ruthie Leming was not a saint. She has no little way that could be wholeheartedly endorsed as a universally valid spiritual practice. And the pathos of the story derives not so much from her own story, gutwrenching as it is, as from the struggle of her only brother—the author—to come to terms with it."

Read the full review, "How Rod Dreher Went Home Again," on our webs
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There was so much to relate to in this book. I was the one who "went away" and have always felt a strong sense of "place" , and I think it's true for some of us, that we may need to leave in order to truly appreciate what we have. This story really captures sibling relationships and the struggles we bear from our youthful perceptions of each other. Can we really warn our children to nurture this relationship while they are young, or do we all have to learn the hard way? :) This was a heart break ...more
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely beautiful. Yes, it makes you cry, but not in a sentimental over done way. It is very intense, very honest and I cannot imagine there is a person out there who cannot relate to the authors struggles between wanting roots, but still wanting to be himself, to loving our families dearly, but sometimes not being able to relate to them well. There is so much to ponder in this book
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Can's say enough about this book. Loved it. Cried like a baby during much it - hit home in an intense way. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time, I think. ...more
Ed Brenegar
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Living in the Worlds of Ruthie and Rod
Rod Dreher's memoir of his sister, Ruthie, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, is a simple story as the subtitle suggests of "A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life." Yet, it is much more.

It is a story of many layers, dealing with the realities of small town life, how we as modern people deal with death, and ultimately, in its own way, a mirror of America in the 21st century reflecting the fragmentation into societal enclaves of rich and
Kara Larson
Read for book club and really loved this thought provoking story on community, family, big vs small town life, vocation, conflict, siblings, religion and overall how the choices we make in life and the way we treat others affects our life.

P11 “She was just kind of magical. She saw something good in everybody, even as a child.”
P15 “There was something particular about Mam and Paw that made our house a center of community. They didn’t have a lot of money, but there was always room for m
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
My husband mentioned this book to me when it was published, since he thought it would be of interest to me. I liked the Kindle sample, but I have this issue with paying $13 for an e-book, which is my preferred reading medium, and my library didn't have an electronic copy. I eventually got my hands on a paperback and read it that way. (Sidenote: I certainly do purchase books, but when I read just enough to make purchasing every book cost prohibitive, I try to use my library unless the author is a ...more
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rod Dreher presents a frank yet tender look at the events surrounding his sister's death from cancer and his own family's return to live in the small Louisiana town where he grew up and the rest of the family continued to live. Dreher left for good reasons, and returning was not easy (to see just how difficult, read How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem), yet it seemed the right thing to do for the good of all involved.

Dreher's sister, Ruthie, was not
Unchong Berkey
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Themes of growing up, family tension despite deep love for one another, and small town living-all interwoven in the true story of Ruthie Leming and the cancer that took her life. It hits all the melancholy notes, and it will move you. I’ve never known this side/story of Rod Dreher, author of Benedict Option, and his little sister, who chose to stay in the very town she was born and raised in while Rod took off for city living as soon as he got the chance. I’d love to discuss this book with other ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So touching. I think I cried most of my way through Ruthie's storie. Her si pimple approach to life was refreshing. It reminds you that family is more important than things. She saw good in everyone. The characters were real and the love for each other was strong. A good recipe for life. I will read this again later in life. ...more
Laurie Larson-Doornbos
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (NetGalley)
Rob Dreher
release date: April 9, 2013

"When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another," writes the agrarian essayist Wendell Berry. "How can they know one another if they have forgotten or have never learned one another's stories? If they do not know one another's stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, a moreover they fear one another. And thi
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Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has app ...more

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