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 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 begins 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. 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.
Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave, and beautiful novel, perfectly crafted with exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation. Ruby’s voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh will not soon be forgotten.
PRAISE FOR PROBABLY RUBY
“In Probably Ruby, Lisa Bird-Wilson explores the deep vulnerability inherent in having no sense of one’s place in the world and particularly the Indigenous world. Bird-Wilson effectively captures the sadness, anger, loneliness and alienation that Indigenous children lost to the child-welfare system are plagued by as they search for a sense of meaning and identity. In turns raw, tender, funny, despairing and hopeful, Probably Ruby tells a story that needs hearing.”
— Michelle Good, author of Five Little Indians
“In Probably Ruby, Lisa Bird-Wilson takes us along on a woman’s deeply poignant journey in search of self, identity, and the reclaiming of an Indigenous heritage that had been taken from her. In Ruby’s story, we see the powerful threads of family in one’s life that can shape, even from afar. This story will stay with you.”
— Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, author of Sarong Party Girls
“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, Lisa Bird-Wilson’s book 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.
“It’s a brilliant piece that takes Indigenous literature in some fascinating new directions. 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
“Reminiscent of Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed, Robert Arthur Alexie’s Porcupines and China Dolls and Beatrice Culleton’s In Search of April Raintree, Probably Ruby is shrapnel to the heart: triggering, maddening, enraging and fearless!”
— Richard Van Camp
“The glass-shattering honesty in the voice, the half-hidden anguish that sears the page. Spare writing, sparing no one. The audacity of Lisa Bird Wilson’s writing—brave, taut, exacting—leaves the reader altered. This story made me catch my breath, made my heart flip-flop in my chest.”
— Lisa Moore, 2017 Jack Hodgins Founders’ Award for Fiction Judge
“I loved Ruby and getting to know her through the people she encountered…I loved how the novel unfolded touching on everything from abuse to Ruby’s complicated sexuality. I loved the humanity and authenticity of her character as well as the other characters in the novel. I felt for all of them, even the dastardly because we are all products of our circumstances, the love we receive or don’t receive.”
— Stella Harvey, author of Finding Callidora
Probably Ruby, to be released August 24, 2021 by Doubleday Canada and in the USA by Hogarth/Random House April 5, 2022:
Probably Ruby Review in the Toronto Star: Lisa Bird-Wilson’s ‘elegiac’ new novel ‘Probably Ruby’ powerful treatise on Canada’s foster-care system
CBC Books lauds Lisa Bird-Wilson’s Probably Ruby as work of Canadian fiction to look out for
Probably Ruby is one of 15 books both Margaret Atwood and Adrienne Clarkson look forward to
Probably Ruby featured in the Reader’s Digest Book Club (July/August 2021 issue)
Probably Ruby featured in Chatelaine Magazine (July/August 2021 issue)