Book Review: Drowning Ruth

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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In the winter of 1919, a young mother named Mathilda Neumann drowns beneath the ice of a rural Wisconsin lake. The shock of her death dramatically changes the lives of her daughter, troubled sister, and husband. . . . Told in the voices of several of the main characters and skipping back and forth in time, the narrative gradually and tantalizingly reveals the dark family secrets and the unsettling discoveries that lead to the truth of what actually happened the night of the drowning. . . .

First Sentences:

Ruth remembered drowning.

“That’s impossible,” Aunt Amanda said.  “It must have been a dream.”

But Ruth maintained that she had drowned, insisted on it for years, even after she should have known better.

My Thoughts: *possible spoilers*

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I started to give it a 3.5 rating but ended up taking it down an entire point when I considered it more.  The story takes place in the early part of the 1900’s as we see WWI, the Spanish Flu epidemic, and the Great Depression make brief cameo appearances in the background of the story.  I appreciated the slight knods to those major events in history, but none of them had too big of a role to play aside from WWI, which gave one of the characters an excuse to be absent from the main event that the book is centered around.

I can’t say overall that I was impressed with any of the characters.  They all seemed boring and flat with little development or room to grow.  Ruth seemed to be growing out of her situation and finding herself, but in the end, the codependency she has with her aunt pulls her right back into her shell.  As dissapointing as that may have been, I can understand it because it demonstraights just how much of a hold Amanda has on Ruth and how difficult it is to get out of a codependent relationship.  It is a sad reality that many people stuck in such relationships never truly grow into their own.

I could not stand Amanda’s character, though she did offer the most interesting story out of the rest of the characters. The events in the book would clearly never have happened had not it been for Amanda.  Her motives seemed selfish and downright insane at times.  It is obvious she is suffering from a personality disorder, perhaps borderline.  While Ruth was relatable to me on a personal level and Amanda was strikingly similar to someone I know in real life, they still lacked something that I couldn’t place my finger on. The other characters are so flat, it hardly even seems worth mentioning them.  Overall, it’s an okay read for a rainy weekend, but don’t expect it to spark any strong emotions or give you any sort of memorable character to get attached to.

Favorite Quotes:

“All I’m saying is that I know what it’s like to do something and then later, the reasons why you did it seem foolish. I know how things can change in ways you never meant.”

“The simple truth was, she’d wormed her way in too deep. I’d never get her out.  If I changed my name and went to the ends of the earth and never came back, still she wouldn’t let go. She was stuck like a burr in my hair. No, it was deeper than that—she was inside me like a bone or an organ.  She’d seeped into my blood with the air I sucked into my lungs.”



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