Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Review: The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen
Publisher: Harper Perennial
American-born Rosalie fell in love with her husband during college; they were inseparable and full of dreams. Abdullah defied his parents when he announced they would marry, knowing they would eventually settle-down and accept her. Abdullah gave Rosalie everything she wished for, including life in Saudi Arabia; a country she has been fascinated with since she was a child. Twenty-five years into the marriage and two children later, Rosalie discovers she is not the only wife. For two years, Abdullah has taken a second wife, and she was oblivious. She honestly believed he was travelling on business, and had no reason to doubt him. She was clueless until a local jeweler made the mistake of asking her about a piece of jewelry she knew Abdullah would never buy her. When she confronts Abdullah, he confesses and explains that he has no plans to live without either wife. He plans to love and provide for both wives. Abdullah has always prided himself on being progressive, and Rosalie is shocked that he would do this to her. Rosalie struggles to keep her family safe, knowing she would never be able to leave the country with her children. Faisal is sixteen and becoming more and more of an extremist in terms of his religion. Their daughter Marium is constantly pushing the boundaries and they need to keep her in check. Rosalie struggles with heartbreak, confusion and bitterness. She has no idea where to go or what to do. Her children remain her priority.
I loved, loved, loved this one! A stunning debut that had me hooked immediately. The emotions of each character were incredibly written. Rosalie was heartbroken and shocked, but she knew her husband’s actions were legal. She struggled with what to do next. Does she leave him? She’ll never gain custody of her children. Their life is in Saudi Arabia. Does she accept the second marriage and go forward? She still loved her husband but didn’t understand how he could do this to her. Abdullah understood her hurt, was conflicted with that fact that he caused the hurt, but he still loved her. He still wanted to be married to her. Overtime, Rosalie became a “Saudi” wife and her “Texas” personality has long been gone. She was no longer the woman he married and fell in love with.
Parssinen is an incredible writer, and I’m really glad I decided to read this one. Rosalie and Abdullah’s relationship captured me in from the beginning. I didn’t like one character over the other, which really surprised me. I expected to be on Rosalie’s side and hate Abdullah but Parssinen portrayed both characters beautifully. I was shocked that I was actually rooting for Abdullah. I wanted their love to remain intact. I wanted it somehow to work out. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how I felt toward Abdullah.
I highly recommend this one. It will no doubt be placed on my list of favorites for 2012. The descriptions were vivid and stunning. At this point, I will state it was my favorite debut so far this year. Parsinnen is without a doubt an extraordinary writer!