Review: The Fortunes of Ruby White by Lia Weston

Title: The Fortunes of Ruby White

Author: Lia Weston

Published: Simon & Schuster Australia July 201o

Synopsis: Ruby White has been pushed too far; she quits her job as a secretary to the worst of the Knobbes at Knobbe & Sons.  With nothing else to fill her time, Ruby soon finds herself at a seminar for those who are Hyper-Audio-Aware, a condition she never knew existed, run by the Jaasmyn Empire, a company she’s never heard of. To Ruby’s surprise, she is offered a job.  Ruby swiftly gains a reputation within the Empire for possessing extraordinary abilities even though her ‘talents’ are in fact no more than a lucky combination of guesswork and sarcasm. Attracting the attention of the charismatic head of the Empire, Ruby ignores her misgivings about the Empire’s ethics and enjoys fitting in somewhere for the first time in her life. When the reactions of those outside the Jaasmyn Empire become more cynical and a promising new relationship wavers, Ruby starts to keep her job details secret. As her training progresses, her parents become even more concerned; the girl who used to eat chocolate for breakfast and salted pretzels for dinner now won’t touch anything that isn’t organic and harvested by hand. The further Ruby penetrates the Empire, the more her behaviour begins to change. As Ruby disappears into the mire of mind, body and spirit, her friends and family try to lure her back but their efforts only push her further into the arms of the Jaasmyn Empire and its mysterious leader. A showdown is on the horizon, however it’s not the kind that anyone expected…

Status: Read on April 17, 2012

My Thoughts:

The Fortunes of Ruby White was not quite what I was expecting. At the center of this lighthearted, chick lit novel is a thread of unease as Ruby is pulled into the cult like environment of the Jassmyn Empire. Still hurting after a messy breakup, albeit 21 months ago, and now jobless, after refusing to memo her boss’s mistress a Dear Jane letter, Ruby is feeling lost until she stumbles into a yoga class that directs her to the Jassmyn Empire. Offered boundless flattery, and a job, Ruby can hardly believe her luck when she becomes a Level Three employee at the ‘new age’ Empire. Beguiled by the extraordinary Jassymn she is willing to overlook the eccentricities of her new workplace embracing their manifesto of health, wealth and love though herbal teas, aromatherapy, re-birthing and psychic advice. As Ruby blissfully buries herself in the Empire’s philosophy her parents and friends grow increasingly worried when she turns them away. When cracks begin to appear in the organisation’s veneer, Ruby’s faith is shaken but it’s not until it all falls apart that she realises what she has lost.

I enjoyed being introduced to Ruby White, the opening chapters give us a character who is smart, witty and sarcastic but also vulnerable after recent events have left her single and unemployed. Ruby is not someone you would expect to be taken in by the sham practices of the Jessamyn Empire, she has loving parents and close friends, but her hidden insecurities make her ripe for their methods. Bombarded by praise and given special attention by the handsome and charming Mr Petrie and enigmatic Jessamyn, the allure of the slow indoctrination is irresistible and without any purposeful intent Ruby falls hook, line and sinker for the company line. Weston shows how easily Ruby’s insecurities are exploited as the Empire encourages her to immerse herself in the ethos. It’s not until her best friend comes begging for a miracle that Ruby begins to question her obsession and even after the company implodes its difficult for her to recognise the depth of her self delusion.
While The Fortunes of Ruby White starts in a light hearted manner, and on the surface things largely continue in that vein, underneath there is a frisson of tension that isn’t quite hidden by Weston’s glib humour. Even as I giggled at Ruby and her father’s exchange over the pillow and wondered how it is people can be so naive, or desperate, as to pay a fortune for therapy from a parrot a sense of unease remained. I think it’s because I am sensitive to the subject of cults, having witnessed a friend get trapped in similar circumstances, that for me the darker side of situation was ever present.

The Fortunes of Ruby White is an entertaining and enjoyable novel that has a surprisingly serious core. Lia Weston is another author I have discovered via the Australian Women Writers challenge and with this debut novel, she proves to be a talented and witty writer. I look forward to her next title.

Available To Purchase

@Simon & Schuster I @Dymocks I @Booktopia

About the Author

Lia Weston is a comedy fiction writer who may or may not possess psychic powers*.  Her first novel is the New Age satire, The Fortunes of Ruby White (Simon & Schuster).  In between writing short stories, articles, and entertaining customers at her day job, Lia is currently finishing her second novel.  She also finds writing about herself in the third person a bizarre and discomforting experience. It’s like serendipity, right? Sure it is. Want to know more? Visit LiaWeston.com. You can also catch Lia on Facebook and Twitter, often posting idiotic pictures of her dog on the former and complaining about misplaced apostrophes on the latter.  * OK, she doesn’t possess psychic powers, unless you count the ability to pick the fillings in a box of Cadbury Milk Tray. What? It’s a talent.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. The Australian Bookshelf
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 09:33:09

    I’ve never heard of this author or her book, so thanks for sharing your review. It sounds like quite a unique storyline!

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