By all appearances, Rod Dreher had a wonderful life. He had a successful career as a journalist; his writing appeared in The Dallas Morning News, The New York Post and The American Conservative; and he had published a book as well. But Dreher felt an emptiness in his life when his younger sister, Ruthie Leming, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 40. Suddenly, Dreher felt the tug of his hometown: St. Francisville, Louisiana, a small community whose residents were rallying around Ruthie in her time of need. So Dreher took his wife and three children and moved home to help care for his sister and reconnect with his roots.

Ruthie Leming’s life may not have been as glamorous as her brother’s, but in many ways, Dreher finds it more meaningful. She was a popular schoolteacher, a loving mother of three and a devoted wife to her high school sweetheart. While her brother fled their town of 1,700 people, Ruthie stayed home. Her energy and enthusiasm touched people’s lives, and when she got sick, they responded with caring and love.

“Ruthie transfigured this town in my eyes,” Dreher writes. “Her suffering and death made me see the good that I couldn’t see before. The same communal bonds that appeared to me as chains all those years ago had become my Louisiana family’s lifelines.” Yet coming home to the town—and the family—he left behind isn’t always easy; resentments linger, and some wounds heal more quickly than others.

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming reminds us of the importance of love, faith and family. And while it deals in death, this book shows us that it is, indeed, a wonderful life.

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