What better place to be a wanderer than in the South of France, surrounded by other gypsies, hot springs and secret admirers? That is exactly where we find 16 year-old Zeeta in Laura Reseu’s new novel, The Ruby Book, a follow-up to Resau’s previous novel, The Indigo Book. Zeeta is wise beyond her 16 years, living in a different country each year of her life, alongside her earthy, flighty mother, Layla.
This year in France will be different than last year in Ecuador. First of all, Zeeta will write all her observations in a new ruby colored notebook, instead of the blue notebook used in South America. Each year, Zeeta moves to a new country, leaves her old friends behind and makes new friends, recreates herself but this time it is different because her boyfriend whom she met last year is arriving in a few short days for 2 months.
Love for any sixteen year old is complicated but when you throw in new surroundings, a handsome intriguing street performer, a mysterious admirer and an ancient secret, love is downright bewildering. Zeeta anxiously awaits Wendell’s arrival but when he changes his plans last minute to stay with a host family instead with her and Layla, the butterflies in her stomach turn to stones. Why did he change his plans? Why does she feel so awkward around him? Does Wendell fit in her new life?
There is much more than a teenage love story in The Ruby Notebook. While Zeeta is sorting out her feelings about Wendell, she is also searching for sacred waters and her unknown father. Both of which may be closer than she realizes.
Resau’s weaves fables and wisdom throughout, using quotes from Rumi poems, or the tales of travelers to illustrate the importance of being open to the possibilities of life and love. Zeeta’s elderly friends teach her the perils of hiding your true feelings. Wendell shows Zeeta that she is more than an empty box to be filled anew in each country but a sum of all those places and always herself at the core. Layla may not be a typical mother, there is no curfew, Zeeta is the one who keeps the budget, makes the meals. Layla does provide some motherly guidance in the form of poetry and encourages Zeeta to “make the day a song.”
The Ruby Notebook, released yesterday, is a romantic, optimistic story that reassures the reader that there is more to life than observing and spending time worrying about the “what-ifs” only serve to limit your potential. It is an affirming novel aimed at pre-teen girls but offers reminders for us all.
The Ruby Notebook by Laura Resau was received as a free review book by the Boston Book Bums