For readers of Tommy Orange's There There and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries, Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity.
Relinquished as an infant, Ruby is placed in a foster home and finally adopted by Alice and Mel, a less-than-desirable couple who can't afford to complain too loudly about Ruby's Indigenous roots. But when her new parents' marriage falls apart, Ruby finds herself vulnerable and in compromising situations that lead her to search, in the unlikeliest of places, for her Indigenous identity.
Unabashedly self-destructing on alcohol, drugs and bad relationships, Ruby grapples with the meaning of the legacy left to her. In a series of expanding narratives, Ruby and the people connected to her tell their stories and help flesh out Ruby's history. Seeking understanding of how we come to know who we are, Probably Ruby explores how we find and invent ourselves in ways as peculiar and varied as the experiences of Indigenous adoptees themselves. Ruby's voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh, will not soon be forgotten.
Probably Ruby is a perfectly crafted novel, with effortless, nearly imperceptible shifts in time and perspective, exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation.
About the author
Lisa Bird-Wilson is a Saskatchewan Métis writer whose stories have been finalists for the Journey Prize, among others. They have appeared in periodicals such as Grain, Prairie Fire, Geist, and in the anthology Best Canadian Essays. Just Pretending is her first book-length work of fiction. Lisa is the author of one other book, An Institute of Our Own: A History of the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and has also written curriculum and other materials for the Ministries of Education and Advanced Education. Saskatchewan born and raised, she works as a director of the Gabriel Dumont Institute and lives in Saskatoon with her family.
"Probably Ruby is a work of incredible depth and breadth. . . . The novel unfolds in a non-linear narrative that Bird-Wilson masterfully weaves together with elegiac prose. It is populated with revelatory passages that are at once beautiful and raw, and demand for you to sit with them a little while. . . poetic gut punches. . . . It's a difficult novel that challenges readers to make connections between the world that Bird-Wilson has created in the book and the country that we live in today, allowing us to see the world through the eyes of another: their struggles and their resiliencies. Her writing is never didactic, always engrossing, and the protagonist is a complex, unforgettable character who will stay with you long after the last page has been turned. Probably Ruby is a timely and important novel every Canadian should read." —Toronto Star
"A searing fictional portrait of intergenerational trauma, embodied by the unforgettable Ruby and her search for her Indigenous kin. . . . This is a heartbreaking and revelatory work about the meaning of family, and the pain we pass through generations, as inescapable as blood." —Maclean's
"Brilliant. . . . Lisa is an extraordinary stylist, and this novel explores Indigenous women's lives in a way that is empowering and that doesn't follow the usual tropes of trauma and victimization. I think of her as a Michif Alice Munro." —Warren Cariou
"Writing from the depths of her heart, Lisa Bird-Wilson has gifted us a passionate exploration of identity and belonging and a celebration of our universal desire to love and be loved." —Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers and How Beautiful We Were
"In this time of crises and isolation, I’ve come to cherish Probably Ruby. It details legacies of struggle without giving in to spectacle. It illuminates, in language of deepest care and artistic exactness, the diverse relations and irreducible complexity of an unforgettable life. Lisa Bird-Wilson is someone I urge you to read." —David Chariandy, author of Brother and I've Been Meaning to Tell You
"Lisa Bird-Wilson holds all her characters with such compassion, even when they go spectacularly off-course, they remain sympathetic in this wildly electric novel. Each fragment builds a provocative mosaic, refusing easy redemption, embracing Ruby's complex, volatile emotional landscape with masterstrokes of observation and insight." —Eden Robinson, author of the Trickster Trilogy
"Soft as it is hard, Probably Ruby reminds us how displacement comes to be commonplace in the lives of some. Never before have I seen a writer represent the constellation of people impacted by this kind of fractured kinship with such righteous critique that is at once restrained and nuanced. Each member of Ruby's web of people is shaped with care, empathy, and grace—even the most unforgivable ones. Simply put, Probably Ruby is one of the very best things I’ve ever read about adoption, race, and want." —Jenny Heijun Wills, author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related.
"Probably Ruby reminds us that our stories are acts of survival. That 'it's not so much a question of what [we] inherit but what [we] do with it.' That grief, too, can be a gift. Written in prose to be savored, Bird-Wilson's novel and its heroine will stay with me for a long time." —Kelli Jo Ford, author of Crooked Hallelujah
"Probably Ruby is a brave and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity." —Daily Hive