Cover image for Leaving : a novel
Leaving : a novel
Dry, Richard, 1967-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
452 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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In 1959, newly-widowed and pregnant Ruby Washington and her thirteen-year-old half brother, Easton, board a bus in rural South Carolina, destined for Oakland, California. There, far from the violent events that forced her to flee her home, Ruby hopes to make a new life for her family.

Ruby gives birth to a daughter, Lida, and strives to raise the girl and Easton. But as their Oakland neighborhood changes during the turbulent 1960s, the three are driven apart by forces that Ruby cannot control. Easton becomes involved with civil rights activism and the Black Panthers; Lida, keeping a hurtful family secret to herself, spirals into a cycle of dependency and denial. Finally, Lida's sons Love LeRoy and Li'l Pit must fend for themselves in the inhospitable streets of America, leaving one city for another, searching for a home.

Centered around three generations of a family and set against the larger dispossession of African-Americans, Leaving is a blend of history and intimately-observed everyday life-a remarkable debut novel.

Author Notes

Richard Dry is an English instructor at Las Positas College and a former Senior Mental Health Assistant who worked with emotionally disturbed youth. Leaving won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation and Intersection for the Arts and was nominated for The Pushcart Editor's Prize. Dry lives with his wife in El Cerrito, California.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In 1959, a pregnant Ruby Washington and her half-brother, Love Easton Childers, travel from a small town in North Carolina to Oakland. Her estranged father takes them in. They form a family bond that bridges the time and distance between the rural South and the urban North until long-held family secrets begin to tear them up. Unity is only a vague memory for the third generation, Ruby's grandsons, Love and Lil Pit. On a desperate journey back to South Carolina, Love, who has learned rough justice and rougher love among gangbangers, is faced with the choice between saving his younger brother and saving himself. Dry tells this family saga from different points in the past and present, alternating between them to set a rhythm that juxtaposes innocence and corruption, ambition and disappointment. A narrator from prison reads from famous works and pontificates on slavery and racism, bringing broader context to the detailed intimacy of one family's story. This brilliantly and beautifully written debut novel, with fully formed, realistic characters, is dreadful in its stark glimpse at urban violence and disarray but beautiful in its portrait of family and love. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dry covers plenty of political and historical ground in this epic, multigenerational debut novel, an earnest but derivative saga that chronicles the efforts of an African-American family to overcome the inequities of racial injustice. The story begins in 1959, when matriarch Ruby Washington travels from her rural South Carolina home to Oakland in search of a better life. But by leaving, she unknowingly sets off a cycle of poverty and violence that will mar the lives of her children. The most intriguing subplot is that of her charismatic half-brother, Easton, a potential civil rights leader who survives a difficult trip to attend the march at Selma, Ala., after getting involved with a white girl, only to get shot by police back in Oakland. The other major subplots are familiar: Ruby's daughter, Lida, falls victim to heroin, while Lida's son, Love, struggles to escape the clutches of the Oakland hip-hop gangs. Dry is a solid storyteller with plenty of compassion for his characters, but unfortunately they never rise above the level of stereotypes, and the author's decision to skip back and forth chronologically in his narrative rather than to relate each character's tale is distracting at best. The result is a generic retelling of a struggle that's been detailed with more flair, grit and verve by other writers. Agent, Victoria Sanders. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

English instructor Dry has written a first novel of impressive scope and ability that examines three generations of an African American family from 1959 to 1994. Ruby Washington is introduced as a pregnant 21-year-old escaping with her 13-year-old stepbrother, Easton, from violence in South Carolina to her father's home in Oakland, CA. The lives of Ruby; Easton; Ruby's child, Lida; and Lida's two sons, Love and Li'l Pit, are detailed in alternating chapters, forcing the reader to pay close attention to time frames and characters. Leaving explores the transience of many African Americans, a bitter, lingering consequence of slavery. Dry's mature, sensitive prose presents a compelling portrayal of civil rights activism, educational aspirations, family disintegration, sexual and drug abuse, and gang life. The novel ends with Ruby's two young grandsons escaping to South Carolina. Expect more from this powerful writer, winner of the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award from the San Francisco Foundation and Intersection for the Arts. Recommended for both academic and public libraries and for all African American collections. Sarah Brechner, ProQuest, Louisville, KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.