Though the title suggests romance, this novel is much more a coming-of-age story about a witty, bookish teenager with overflowing compassion for those around her ... Sullivan’s writing is charming, and she has created a refreshing, unconventional love story. The two primary settings, Beardsley, Illinois, and Harvester, help to develop the perimeter characters in Ruby’s life ... Though the story is set in the World War I era, the ideas are very much accessible to contemporary life. The novel explores what it means to create your own family, your own path forward, when you’re left without much of anything in the world except a handful of belongings and some difficult memories ... Ruby herself is the true triumph of this novel—she is able to recreate the warm feelings of her childhood wherever she goes, with her curiosity, ambition, and never-failing love. In this way, Sullivan has created a courageous story of self-love.
Ruby’s voice is peppy and thoughtful — with her literary quotations and romantic flights of fancy, she brings to mind the character Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables — but this brief novel contains an awful lot of sadness ... In previous novels, Sullivan has excelled at bringing to life the rhythm of small towns, and in Ruby & Roland the labor and beauty of farm life dominate the story. The laundry, the egg-fetching, the milking, the 'dusty with wheat chaff' farmhands, the hardworking, capable women — all make up a vivid world.