Ruby Milk, by Lucy English, Createspace Independent Publishing, Charleston, SC, ISBN: 1519301073, 2015, 272 pages. $10.50.
Ruby Milk will surprisingly pull you in, catch your breath, and have you sitting on the edge of your seat by the end of Chapter 1. Ruby Milk is a wonderful mystery book, written by Lucy English, who has definitely done her research about social work. Ms. English develops her characters so they are likeable and realistic. The main character, a social worker named Penny, comes across as endearingly confused and hesitant about how to help her client, Dani, a young teenager whose mother has mysteriously just died.
Penny Wade is a feisty and creative community counseling social worker in South Boston. Like many other social workers, Penny is burned out in social work, wanting to help clients, not knowing if she can, feeling overwhelmed, changing direction, feeling empty, and frustrated. She has no personal life, is searching for love, enjoying a few close friendships, struggling financially to make ends meet, but seemingly is okay with the status quo. When Dani Martin, a frightened 16-year-old girl whose mother has just died 14 hours earlier, appears in Penny’s doorway at social services, Penny begins to feel a shift in her life. She starts asking the hard questions, delving deeper into this case than she’s ever dug before. She asks Dani outright if she thinks someone wanted to kill her mother. As the story unfolds, Dani becomes more certain that her mother’s death was intentional, even though she struggles with getting people to believe her. She has people she can live with, but until she gets to the bottom of her mother’s murder, it won’t happen. She is staying put and is taking care of herself. Dani must struggle with grieving the loss of her mother, taking care of herself all by herself, working through the grief of others, and finding out who would kill her mother and why. Penny continues to feel overwhelmed, while at the same time questioning whether the death was intentional or accidental.
This is an excellent book, well-written, fun to read, and gives excellent insight into the life of an adventurous social worker. I loved it! I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
Reviewed by Marian Swindell, Ph.D., associate professor of social work at Mississippi State University—Meridian.