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Way Down Deep


Way Down Deep

On the morning of the first day of summer in 1944, a small redheaded girl is found abandoned outside the courthouse in Way Down Deep, West Virginia. The toddler is discovered by circuit-riding judge Elbert Deel shortly after he finishes breakfast at The Roost, the town’s boardinghouse. News of the child’s mysterious appearance spreads quickly through the small community, and no one can imagine how she got there.

Miss Arbutus Ward, the normally reserved proprietor of The Roost, rushes over to the office of Sheriff Reynolds and offers to care for the little girl until the child’s family is found. Miss Ward stands there “as tall and thin as an evening shadow, waiting for his answer.” With no clues to locate any relatives --- and not one to ask for assistance from the State --- Sheriff Reynolds hands the girl over to Miss Ward, who promptly names her Ruby June.

The entire community donates gifts to help Miss Ward raise Ruby, and the child blossoms into a lovely and sweet-natured girl. But as Ruby grows older she wonders about her family, especially her mother. She has faint memories of being held and rocked beside a window, where she watched snow fall. Occasionally she awakes in the small hours of the morning and sees a lady sitting in the armchair near her bed. But when daylight fills her room, the chair is empty and the woman is gone.

Ruby’s favorite chore is running errands on Busy Street. Pulling her red Radio Flyer wagon behind her, she visits Way Down Deep’s shops, stores and neighbors. One bright Monday during the summer after seventh grade, she waits in line at the bank behind a stranger who wears denim overalls and a tee-shirt. As the bank’s customers inch forward, the man jumps out of line. In one hand he waves a gun; in the other a paper sack. In a shaky voice he announces a stickup and demands money --- in small bills because he claims he can’t get anyone to break large ones.

That day in the bank sets in motion events that change Ruby’s life, and after a new family moves to town, she discovers clues to her past. To find out who she is, Ruby must leave Way Down Deep and the only family she has ever known. But is learning about who you are and where you came from worth leaving behind those you love?

In a story filled with so many characters, a reader could get lost. But the alphabetized character listing and the sketch of the town at the front of the book help a great deal. Ruth White’s tale about Ruby and the likable inhabitants of Way Down Deep is creative, thoughtful and heartwarming.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on March 20, 2007

Way Down Deep
by Ruth White

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
  • ISBN-10: 0374382514
  • ISBN-13: 9780374382513