Almost Ruth: Tyler Jones
Reviewed By Steve Stred
A few years back, I was asked by a fantastic writer if I’d be up to beta read a novel they were working on. I said ‘Absolutely!’ knowing just how dark and bleak filled their work was. What I read was a staggering novel that filled me with an ache and sadness over the characters loss and the reality of just how deep grief infects the marrow of our bones.
That novel was ‘Remains’ by Andrew Cull.
I didn’t believe I’d come across another book that takes grief and makes you look deeply into its all-consuming black hole any time soon, but wouldn’t you know, here it is.
Tyler Jones has released some awesome work, work that tackles death, depression, sadness and despondency, but if I’m to be completely honest – they were all awesome but not spectacular. At least to this reader. Really, really, really good, but 99.99999999% good, not 100% PHENOMENAL.
That changes here.
What I liked: ‘Almost Ruth’ is set in a small town, many years ago and follows Abel Cunningham, the local gravedigger/cemetary caretaker. The town has its quirks and rituals and it’s these quirks that ultimately spell doom for Abel’s loving wife, Ruth.
The story has a few other bits and pieces, a fantastic biblical storyline as well as great secondary characters, such as Mr. Burke and Connor, but at the heart of this story is Abel and Ruth and Jones does a phenomenal job of sharing their love for each other with the reader.
But this isn’t a nice book. This isn’t a “rainbows and puppies and sunshine” book. No, this is a book about death and grief and sorrow and there are two scenes in here, two scenes that I wish I could knock on Tyler’s door and when he answered, punch him square in the nose for the devastation he caused me while reading this. Both surround Ruth and her demise and both will live in my head for the rest of time. Even writing this now has me getting misty and choked up.
The finale, the reality of what Burke wants and what is actually happening was great and really drove home the ritual aspect of the towns true nature.
What I didn’t like: This was a pitch-perfect story, which really got under my skin and had me sad for everyone involved. The only noticeable thing I’d mention was I’d have liked the biblical portion which (spoiler-free) surrounds the Burke statue to have been expanded upon a bit more.
Why you should buy this: As I said – Jones has released two really good novellas previously, which are now being expanded upon, but this, at least for me, is his first perfect and first phenomenal novel. Showcasing both his amazing penchant for making even the darkest shadows darker, this story sinks in quickly and never lets go.
Outstanding work, Tyler. Congratulations on this novel, because you’ve absolutely crushed it. Well done.
Ashville is a town with a secret history. Ancient structures lie hidden in the woods, and strange rituals are performed to keep the dead where they belong. For gravedigger Abel Cunningham, it is also a town filled with regrets. And when Abel is tasked with an unusual burial, he discovers there are more than just corpses in the cemetery.
Set in an unsettling vision of the Old West, Almost Ruth is the new nightmare from the author of Criterium and The Dark Side of the Room.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.
Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.
He is an active member of the HWA.
He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.
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