“…In Released, Margaret Macpherson creates no less than an epic story about Ruth, this made especially remarkable by the fact that Ruth only comes into her twenties within the time span of the novel. While Carroll’s novel [Body Contact] is more entertaining, Macpherson’s is sobering, as Ruth continually teeters between creative and destructive forces in her life. Hearkening back to the biblical namesake, Ruth is loyal, kind, and compassionate, and this may very well prove to be her undoing. A source of guilt for “Ruth the Tooth” is how she enters the world, born with teeth and causing pain to her mother during breast feeding. Her girlhood is marked by two significant factors; numerous painful dental procedures are mitigated by her saving grace, a strong connection and friendship with Jax. when the “summer of Jax” is complete, the reader wants her to reappear perhaps as inexplicably as she disappears, and Ruth will unconsciously search for her in future years. Naivete, guilt, and an ascetic bent draw Ruth to religious fanaticism in her adolescence, and to the centrepiece relationship of the novel, with her boyfriend Ian. He introduces Ruth to romance, poetry, alcohol, and eventually violence and a cycle of abuse: “I don’t know real pain. Ian does, of course. That’s what defines him. That’s what draws me in.”
Macpherson portrays a believably regression of Ruth and Ian’s relationship, a downward spiral from carefree adventures to Ruth enduring torturous acts. Especially wrenching is that through all of Ian’s abuse, she is absolutely unguided, unprotected, and unadvised. She receives no protection from ehr parents, friends, roommates, professors, or church. What makes this particular narrative different from other tales of young girls falling for the wrong boy, only to come to misery, atonement, and healing? In a speech to Ian, Ruth’s resilience stems from her ability to forgive. She is real, honest, wrong, innocent, closed, trusting, blind, courageous, ignorant, open, young, and caring.
In all, Released is about searching for the sacred, whether through God, a romantic relationship, or a friendship. ”