Family dynamics, Fiction, Romantic Fiction

#503 A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

A Virtuous Woman by Kaye GibbonsA Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”

A virtuous woman is quite the thing to be according to Proverbs 31: verses 10-31. We’ve looked to strong women in our lives and Ruby Stokes is no exception. She is virtuous in her way, but also sinful in her own way.

Ruby started out life in a well-to-do farming family, not extremely well-to-do, but well enough off. When Ruby was a teenager, she rebelled by marrying a man she barely knew. He was a migrant worker. He told her many things, most of them lies. He took her off away from her family, where he called her names and berated her. She tried to make the best of life that she could. She soon started working as hired help up at the big house on the farm, there her husband got into one fight too many and ended up dead. Ruby was not sad.

Jack had watched her from the sidelines. Right off, we can tell that Jack is a little slow. He’s a man of forty when he meets Ruby, who is only twenty. Ruby is really the only woman Jack has ever entertained the idea of being with. When her husband dies, Jack wastes not time in asking her to be his wife. He surprises himself in his audacity.

In the end though, Ruby gets cancer from all the cigarettes she has smoked and dies at only forty-five years of age. Jack is sad and wishes her back more than anything in the world. Alternately, they go back and forth recounting the good and bad things of their lives together. There was the time that Jack bought Ruby a mule; there was the time that the awful neighbor kid killed that mule. There was the time they went to the beach. There was the time they found out that they couldn’t have any children. Ruby tried her best to prepare Jack for her death. She made freezer meals to last for about three months, but in the end, Jack is lost without her.

Burr and June, who Ruby and Jack practically raised, help Jack live his life. In the end, Burr realizes that Jack needs a place of his own, his very own. It won’t make up for Ruby being dead, but it will give him something to hold onto.

What I liked

Ruby and Jack were twenty years apart, but they got along great. Their marriage was good to them. They were what each other needed. Look, I know there are people who are against the idea of such large age gaps in couples; they say things like, “She only wants a daddy,” as exhibited in this book, but sometimes that age gap works for people. It’s not very nice of us to be down on someone’s relationship like that. If a woman is twenty-five and her husband is fifty and their relationship is great and they’re getting everything they need out of it, then we have absolutely no right to say anything about it. If it works, it works.

Jack may not be the brightest light bulb, but he’s a good person. The relationship he and Ruby have is very sweet. They know what each other needs. They know the desires each of them have. They’re comfortable enough that they can cry together and rejoice together in a very candid way. All relationships aren’t like that. Ruby and Jack, despite any age differences or differences in backgrounds have found something that works for them. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of fact that a person needs someone who isn’t their same age, or doesn’t come from the same background, to be happy.

What I didn’t like

In a relationship with a much older man, you would expect the man to die first, but in this relationship that wasn’t the case. Ruby dies at forty-five years old, which is too young for anybody to die. Forty-five is nothing when there are people who are a hundred plus years walking around, or not walking; it doesn’t matter; it only matters that they’re alive at that age. The woman dying first would be really difficult and it was especially so in this case. Ruby was already used to taking care of Jack. She was already his caretaker, not just because he was older, but also because he was slow. She had probably expected to take care of him until he died, but she didn’t get to. She spent her last time preparing frantically for her death. She tried to hold back the wave that was going to fall on Jack when her scent faded and the freezer meals ran out.

I think this is really sad. The roles didn’t play out how each of them had thought. Ruby had to leave Jack alone and without help. It would be difficult to leave someone knowing that they didn’t have you to take care of them anymore. You’d be frantic about how they were going to live and how they were going to eat.


Ruby was a virtuous woman, a bit head-strong and she smoked too many cigarettes, but still virtuous.

Weigh in

Do you have prejudices against large age gaps in relationships? Why are why not?

If the situation were reversed, what do you think Ruby would have done without Jack in her life?

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Family dynamics, Fiction, Gibbons-Kaye, Romantic Fiction


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