Friday, February 13, 2009

Drowning Ruth

I wonder why I’m all about reading Oprah’s book club books lately? Does Oprah ever pick a book that isn’t kind of a downer? I think no. But that’s okay because at least the writing was solid. The story was also captivating. All around, I actually quite enjoyed this book. Lindsey asked in the comments on my last review whether I’ve ever read any Anita Shreve. The answer is yes! And coincidentally, this book actually reminded me a little of Shreve’s story telling. It takes you to a certain time in history and the voice is very consistent.

I tried a few different times to summarize the plot on my own, but alas nothing I’m writing is right. So I will resort to the back of the book description:

Winter, 1919. Amanda Starkey spends her days nursing soldiers wounded in the Great War. Finding herself suddenly overwhelmed, she flees Milwaukee and retreats to her family’s farm on Nagawaukee Lake, seeking comfort with her younger sister, Mathilda, and three-year-old niece, Ruth. But very soon, Amanda comes to see that her old home is no refuge – she has carried her troubles with her. On one terrible night almost a year later, Amanda loses nearly everything that is dearest to her when her sister mysteriously disappears and is later found drowned beneath the ice that covers the lake. When Mathilda’s husband comes home from the war, wounded and troubled himself, he finds that Amanda has taken charge of Ruth and the farm, assuming her responsibility with a frightening intensity. Wry and guarded, Amanda tells the story of her family in careful doses, as anxious to hide from herself as from us the secrets of her own past and of that night.

Really strong character development – it’s one of those books where you think about them when you’re not reading, wondering what’s happening to them. You might not like every one of the characters, but you really get the whole story with each of them. The plot is a bit melodramatic (it is, after all an Oprah book) but I bought into it. For some reason I always have an easier time buying into melodrama when the story takes place in “olden times”. Like everyone was all running around getting drowned and creating scandals in the 1910s, right?

Anyways, there are plenty of plot twists to keep your attention, plus they don’t tell you the whole effing story until like the very last page, so you really are compelled to keep reading. Considering how lethargic my reading habits have been of late, the fact that I tore through this book in 3 days should tell you that I liked it.


Heather J. said...

I read your review a few times, b/c I couldn't make up my mind about this book. But I think I'll give it a try sometime ... at the very least, it will be on my Friday Finds post this week. :)

Becky said...

Hi, I recently read Drowning Ruth because it was an Oprah recommendation. I usually find that I enjoy Oprah recommendations and I did really enjy this book too. I agree with you about the character development. You saw the characters change and grow throughout the story which I really liked (even though I didnt particularly like Amanda very much).

My only complaint was that it was a bit predictable, but i really enjoyed it.

I read and reviewed an Anita Shreve book immediately afterwards (The Pilots Wife) and I agree that each author had a very similar style of writing.

Feel free to check out my review if you're interested.

Becky said...

I should have said, my review is at