Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Drowning Ruth, by Christina Schwarz


The de facto secretary of the book club in my last ward sent me the title of this book as one of their most recent selections. It's quite an eclectic group and the discussions get lively. I miss those ladies dearly. There always seems to be one in the group who will "LOVE" the book and one who "HATES" the book and plenty in between.

I'm afraid in regards to this book, I'm on the "hate it" side.

Ruth is raised by her mother's sister. Ruth's mother Mathilda drowned in the lake close to their home, and being only three when it happened, has vague but frightening memories about the event. Her aunt, Amanda, is strangely reticent to discuss Mathilda or the drowning other than admitting that it happened. Amanda has occasional nervous breakdowns that at times require a visit to the santorium, so the relationship between she and Ruth is odd at least.

Ruth's father was overseas fighting in Europe (WWI) when Mathilda drowned, and was recuperating from a severely wounded leg when he returned home. They have a difficult time getting to know each other due to Amanda's quietly domineering personality.

The author uses frequent flashbacks and changes of point of view in order to keep up the suspense as to what exactly happened the night Mathilda died and why. Without giving too much away, Amanda's choices and their consequences result in heartache, lost opportunities and death for various members of her family. Amanda's character doesn't grow from her experiences. Ruth gets drawn into her aunt's deceptive, though "well-intentioned", plots despite her attempts to pull away from Amanda. The men in the book are portrayed as either cowardly simpletons, or duplicitous lechers with no inherent respect for women.

There isn't the total devastation of a traditional tragedy at the end, neither is it a happily ever after conclusion, rather a mundane "things work out okay eventually, sort of". Lukewarm, mediocre, blah; not worth reading.

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