From the first few lines Ruby Tuesday Sweet establishes her presence and carries the reader away with these simple words: “It began the day my father sliced off his finger. I was thirteen, and that was the hottest fall of my life.”
Before long you know that this very extraordinary girl lives in the midst of a dysfunctional, chaotic, but fun-loving family. She calls her parents by their first names and lives with her gambling father. Ruby hails from a line of women who call a Vegas casino home, and we quickly meet Darlene, her rock and roll-loving mother, and Nana Sue, the card-shark, Vegas-loving grandmother.
Jennifer Anne Kogler, the author of Ruby Tuesday, does a great job of depicting these zany characters and the baseball-loving, numbers-playing, bookie-filled California world Ruby Tuesday inhabits. Who wouldn’t want to know more about the Virginia Slim-chain-smoking grandmother, Nana Sue? Why not daydream about having a friend-to-the-rock stars mom who can get herself and friends backstage after concerts? Well, Ruby Tuesday might have a few things to say about whether Vegas or California claim her heart, because she loves her life with her handsome rougue of a gambling dad, Hollis.
But Ruby’s life changes dramatically the day the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series. Ruby’s dad is left holding the winning ticket to a major bet, while her “uncle” and father’s bookie, winds up dead. Suddenly Ruby’s life is spinning out of control. Her father calls in her mother and hands her the winning ticket, along with his precious daughter, and gains Ruby’s mother’s promise to whisk Ruby off to Vegas. Before long Ruby is sitting at casino tables with Nana Sue and her collared and leashed lizard named Lucky, and she is learning to play far more games than any of her friends had tried back in California.
Once the story is set up, a rapid pace sets in with Ruby Tuesday and her mother scrambling to get out of harm’s way, and the reader is left wondering how they’ll get out of this terrible mess. While this is the fall of dangerous adventure, it’s also the season of Ruby’s growing up. The book is narrated by a much-older Ruby Tuesday. Before the story ends Ruby has uncovered the many layers of substance that actually make up her parents and, at the same time, her image of her grandmother is forever changed.
Is her father charged with the murder of his bookie? Do Ruby and her mother make a clean, fast get-away? Do they claim the winning ticket? If her father didn’t kill “Uncle” Larry, who did?
These are questions I’ll leave unanswered. I will say that although I really enjoyed the read, I did come away from the ending with a feeling of wanting a little more. I can’t say the ending of the book completely satisfied this reader, but I also won’t take away from the author her larger-than-life characters and the well-drawn sense of place that permeates the book. With all the baseball and gambling talk running in and around the murder mystery plot, Ruby Tuesday is sure to capture the attention of readers young and old.