In Ruby Dreams of Janis Joplin Mary Clearman Blew deftly braids together memories of the past with the present, when the Rivermen have imploded and a severely bruised and disillusioned Ruby returns to her hometown to find everything she ran away from waiting for her. In lyrical yet muscular prose, Blew explores women dealing with the isolation of small towns, the enduring damage done when a community turns against itself, the lasting effects of abuse on the vulnerable, and our capacity to confront the past and heal. Throughout, Ruby Dreams of Janis Joplin is underscored by the music that forms inextricable bonds between Blew's fascinating characters.
Music, whether a Debussy étude or Gram Parsons's "Hickory Wind," has been a constant in Ruby Gervais's life. After Ruby helps fuel a paranoid fervor that spreads like wildfire throughout her rural Montana community, her home life deteriorates. As a sixteen-year-old high school dropout busing tables at the local bar two nights a week, her prospects are uncertain. So when, after her shift one night, the Idaho Rivermen invite her to join their band and head toward fame and fortune, Ruby doesn't think twice.