The Little Way of Ruthie Leming

A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life


By Rod Dreher

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The Little Way of Ruthie Leming follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie’s death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteacher. He was also struck by the grace and courage with which his sister dealt with the disease that eventually took her life. In Louisiana for Ruthie’s funeral in the fall of 2011, Dreher began to wonder whether the ordinary life Ruthie led in their country town was in fact a path of hidden grandeur, even spiritual greatness, concealed within the modest life of a mother and teacher. In order to explore this revelation, Dreher and his wife decided to leave Philadelphia, move home to help with family responsibilities and have their three children grow up amidst the rituals that had defined his family for five generations-Mardi Gras, L.S.U. football games, and deer hunting.
As David Brooks poignantly described Dreher’s journey homeward in a recent New York Times column, Dreher and his wife Julie “decided to accept the limitations of small-town life in exchange for the privilege of being part of a community.”


  • If you've ever felt an outsider in your own family, you've got to read this book. If you have ever had any "sibling-issues" you've got to read this book. This true, powerful, deeply-moving, and masterfully-told story is nothing less than a gift. And yes, indeed: it will change lives.

    -- Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

  • If you are not prepared to cry, to learn, and to have your heart cracked open even a little bit by a true story of love, surrender, sacrifice, and family, then please do not read this book. Otherwise, do your soul a favor, and listen carefully to the unforgettable lessons of Ruthie Leming.

    -- Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
  • Emotionally complex and genuinely affecting.

    -- Kirkus Reviews
  • This is an authentic and deeply touching memoir, which honestly asks many of the best questions about the things that matter. Interacting with this story will change you!

    -- Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack and Cross Roads

  • This book will make you feel hunger pangs for what you didn't know you even missed. And then it will feed you, line upon line, soul bread. As the Israelites ate manna in the desert, Dreher's evocative prose gathers the unforgettable manna moments of Ruthie Leming's life.

    --Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

  • Rod Dreher tells a tale of dear things lost and dear things restored, but also, and unflinchingly, confronts some harder truths about old wounds that never fully heal and old misunderstandings that won't quite go away. This is a book that strives for truth more than beauty-and is all the more beautiful for it.

    -Alan Jacobs, author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

  • "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming is Steel Magnolias for a new generation."

    -Sela Ward, Emmy Award-winning actress and author of Homesick

  • "Thoughtful and thought-provoking..."

    --USA Today
  • "In reading Dreher's reflections on small-town life, and seeing his desire to savor its beauty despite all the pain, I couldn't help thinking: Here is a mature writer speaking words American evangelicals desperately need to hear."

    -- Christianity Today
  • "...the best story about home, family, and community I have read in a long, long time. When I next teach my "Simplicity and Sustainability" class (next fall), I'm going to present it alongside ... classics like Walden, as a way to help my students understand that these "little ways"--ways of tradition and connection--really are available and out there, and aren't just romantic dreams.

    -- Front Porch Republic
  • "Gripping."

    -- Tampa Bay Times
  • "The sorrows, mysteries, and beauties of the human experience are on full display in Rod Dreher's The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. Subtitled A Southern Girl, a Small Town and the Secret of a Good Life, this moving and emotionally complex account of the life and death of Dreher's younger sister, who passed away two years ago at the age of 42, touches on one resonant theme after another: deep-seated sibling conflict, growing up as an outsider, strained father-son relationships, the bonds of community, and renewal amidst tragedy."

    -- Pop Matters
  • "Believe me. This is one of the most powerful, emotionally riveting, and spiritual books you will ever have the good fortune to read."

    -- D Magazine
  • "The most powerful book I've read in years. It overflows with that inexplicable mix of joy and pain that a writer can only achieve when he is telling the truth."

    -- Yuval Levin, National Review
  • "If you read just one work of serious non-fiction this spring, let it be Rod Dreher's beautiful, moving memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. At the center of the book is the emotionally gripping story of the death of the author's sister from cancer at the age of 42. But that story is embedded in an another - an intellectually and spiritually provocative account of Dreher's youthful flight from and eventual return (after Ruthie's death) to his Louisiana hometown (population 1,700). It is these bracing reflections on place and community, ambition and happiness that transform the book into something far more than a tragic autobiography. Dreher has written a powerful statement about how we live today - and more importantly, about how we should live."

    -- The Week

  • Beautifully written and unforgettably told ... Dreher's tour de force delivers on every level.

    -- First Things

  • In the lyrical tradition of seventeenth-century poet John Donne ("No Man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main...") -- with the social attunement of Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam, researcher of localism and author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community -- Dreher shines a prescriptive light on an alternative to contemporary Americans' overwhelming and increasing disconnect from family, friends, neighbors, and social structures.

    -- Biographile

On Sale
Apr 15, 2014
Page Count
304 pages

Rod Dreher

About the Author

Rod Dreher has been an editorial writer and columnist for the Dallas Morning News, a film critic for the New York Post, and currently writes for the American Conservative. He currently lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana with his wife Julie and his three children.

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming is his second book; his first was Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party).

Learn more about this author