Book Reviews

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown at Random House Publishing Group

Genre Lesbian / Historical / 20th Century / Fiction
Reviewed by Josie Teresi on 04-February-2019

Book Blurb

A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country's most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle remains a transformative work more than forty years after its original publication. In bawdy, moving prose, Rita Mae Brown tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes—and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.

"The rare work of fiction that has changed real life . . . If you don't yet know Molly Bolt—or Rita Mae Brown, who created her—I urge you to read and thank them both."—Gloria Steinem

Winner of the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award | Winner of the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award

Book Review

'Rubyfruit Jungle' is an engaging book that accomplishes the tough task of making the reader both laugh out loud and sniffle throughout its endearing pages. Set in the 1950s and 60s, the story follows the early life of Molly Bolt, who sticks her middle finger to the traditional gender roles of that time by refusing to apologize for being a lesbian or wanting to be monogamous.

Molly narrates as we follow her from being a poor girl from rural Pennsylvania, to her teenage years in Florida and finally to her life as a struggling film student in New York. Brown saturates each stage of her main character’s life with humorous moments such as in the opening of the book, we see Molly charging admission for her classmates to see Broccoli Detwiler’s uncircumcised penis after school or how she was able to make some quick cash during her first few days in New York by throwing grapefruits at an eccentric millionaire’s genitals to satisfy his weird sexual fetish. On the other hand, the book also draws attention to some societal injustices that Molly endures like the disadvantage she faces growing up poor, the homophobia she experiences for being an out lesbian and the sexism she wades through for being a progressive female during a conservative time. It is because of these current continued societal problems, that the book is as relevant today as it was when it was originally published in the early 1970s.

Brown’s prose is conversational and makes you feel as if you are sitting with Molly on a front porch drinking lemonade as she is telling you her story. Molly’s intelligence and creativity is obvious as she is entwined with a colorful cast of characters that each collectively break her heart in different ways.

Portrayed as a big, dumb lug, her cousin Leroy and she are close (so much so that they do have sex a few times; Brown is open about her feelings that incest is okay), but she outgrows the relationship as she decides that she wants more than what her hometown can offer. There is also a steady theme in her intimate encounters where her girlfriends will often confess that they are not “strong” like Molly and are too wrapped up in their own internalized homophobia to proceed in a relationship with her. Finally, her verbally abusive and adopted mother Carrie makes her home life unbearable but it is in this volatile mother-daughter relationship that Molly ultimately finds some comfort at the conclusion of the book. The sole person in her life that is supportive is her adopted father Carl but he passes away while Molly is still a teenager. Throughout the book we see Molly mature from a trickster school girl to a trailblazing woman whose desire to create films about real people is sometimes overshadowed by her male-dominated counterparts who seem more interested in making movies with lots of explosions and gratuitous sex.

Brown crams a lot of story in her modest first book and at some points it came across as a bit muddled for me but I feel the overall humor and the wittiness of the book compensates for that aspect. I would recommend Rubyfruit Jungle to anyone looking for a quick read that will make you laugh, cry, and inspire you to root for the underdog in Rita Mae Brown’s unapologetic character, Molly Bolt.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length NovelNovel, 256 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 25-June-2014
Price $11.99 ebook, $16.00 paperback
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