Fiction. Women's Studies. A HARSH AND PRIVATE BEAUTY is about the life and loves of Ruby Grace, now in her 89th year, on a train journey with her granddaughter back to Chicago, the city of her birth. When the book opens, Ruby is living in a retirement care home, but as a young woman, she was a jazz and blues singer, once trained for a career in opera. The novel traces Ruby's grandparent's immigration from Ireland to New York City, her father, Daniel Kenny’s life in 1920s Chicago—the era of gangsters, nightclubs, rum-running, and Prohibition—and Ruby's subsequent life in Montreal and Toronto. Headstrong and talented, Ruby struggled with the conventions of the times, was trapped in a marriage that forced her to give up her singing career, and in love with another man who shares her passion for music. Now, on the train headed back to a city she cannot remember, to a daughter she hardly knows, Ruby tries to look honestly at herself and the choices she has made, choices that affected not only her children, but her grandchildren. Ruby has a stroke en route, leaving the disconnected story of her life and love in the hands of her granddaughter, Lisa, who must reveal a secret to her father, Ruby’s son, that her grandmother guarded all her life.
Kate Kelly is an educator, singer/song writer, poet and novelist. She is the author of A HARSH AND PRIVATE BEAUTY (2019). A mother of three, she lives and works in Peterborough. Kate is also a spoken-word artist and has competed nationally in Toronto and Montreal. She can be found on Youtube, performing spoken word.