I’ve not yet read Rod Dreher’s new book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and I feel stupid for it. Frederica Mathewes-Green reviewed Little Way for the July/August Books and Culture, and it sounds like a piercing story.
Here’s my summary of Mathewes-Green’s summary. Dreher grew up in a down-home family where people were practical and rooted. Intellectual and interested in faraway things, Dreher felt alienated and apart, feelings that became real as he left home to pursue a career in journalism. His family never understood his decision and the divide grew.
When Dreher’s sister was diagnosed with cancer, Ruthie was given three months to live. Dreher flew home and the two experienced something of a reconciliation. Apologies were offered and accepted. Ruthie lived longer than expected but eventually succumbed.
Following her funeral Dreher and his wife decided to move back home to help with their nieces and his aging parents. It didn’t go as well as they imagined. Mathewes-Green:
They had trouble connecting with the younger nieces, Claire and Beckah. Some invisible barrier stood between them. One night Hannah — Ruthie’s eldest — told Rod that he should just give up that project, because it was never going to happen. All their lives mom had made sharp and mocking comments about Rod. The girls had heard too much of that to like or trust him now. Ruthie had continued saying such things even after the day when Rod had asked for her forgiveness and they’d made, he thought, a new start. . . . How could Ruthie be so kind to everybody she met, yet so unjust to her brother?
I didn’t have to underline or bracket that passage of the review. It just stared back at me from the naked page. Still does.
God gives us family to love us. That’s true, and praise him for it. But perhaps God also gives us family to teach us to love people who hurt us. It’s harder to praise him for that one. But just as necessary.