Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review: The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen

The Ruins of Us is a beautiful story of marriage and family set in Saudi Arabia.  Rosalie is an American expatriate who grew up in Saudi Arabia and fell in the love with the country.  Her family moved back to Texas, but Rosalie met and married Abdullah in college and moved back to Saudi Arabia.  When the book begins, Rosalie and Abdullah have been married and living in Saudi Arabia for 25 years.  When Rosalie learns that Abdullah has taken a second wife, she must decide whether she loves Saudi Arabia enough to stay or if she will leave Abdullah.  The turmoil between Rosalie and Abdullah blinds them to the increasing religious fervor of their son Faisal.  The story is told in alternating voices: Rosalie's, Abdullah's, Faisal's, and Dave Coleman's (a family friend).

Writing
The writing in this book is, in my opinion, exceptional.  I love when authors can recreate vivid moments and experiences that unite the reader with the characters.  For example, I have never lived in Saudi Arabia and have never found out that my husband has another wife (hopefully I can go my whole life without that one).  But a passage Parssinen writes about how it's easier to feel resolve to do something difficult at night and how those resolves break down in the light of morning completely resonated with me.  I've had that exact same feeling. 

Entertainment Value
This is definitely a character-driven novel.  There are a few plot-oriented things that happen, but the majority of the book takes place in the character's minds.  This may not appeal to all readers or to those who are expecting drama and shocking twists.  However, I fully enjoyed the experience of each character's point of view, his or her personality, and how they interpret the events surrounding the story.  This isn't a fast read, but it's a beautiful read and something I think will appeal to lovers of literary fiction.

Overall
I recommend it to those who appreciate beautiful writing, love character-driving novels, or are lovers of contemporary literary fiction.  I also recommend it to those with a special interest in the Middle East, the treatment of women in Muslim cultures, or the issues surrounding violent Islamic extremists.

Thank you to Trish at TLC for letting me be a part of this tour and check out this page for the list of other reviewers.

4 comments:

  1. I loved this book too, especially the part about Faisal becoming radicalised and the consequences of it.

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  2. I'm reviewing this tomorrow, and I liked the quote you referred to as well. I didn't like the characters though! I thought that if it weren't for the plot (second half of the book) I don't know if I would have stayed interested. But it definitely is a good look at the middle east.

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  3. I know what you mean about totally identifying with characters even though you haven't been through the same experiences - I love it when an author can make me do that!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks for being on the tour!

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  4. "But a passage Parssinen writes about how it's easier to feel resolve to do something difficult at night and how those resolves break down in the light of morning completely resonated with me." That's something I can definitely relate to!

    Sounds like a great book club book.

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