Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen
Date Published: January 12, 2012
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-0062064486
Genre: Historical Fiction; Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

Book Summary: More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving Saudi Arabia, her life, and her family behind. Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie’s consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world.

The Ruins of Us is a timely story about intolerance, family, and the injustices we endure for love that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.

My Thoughts: The Ruins of Us is about the disintegration of the Baylani Family in Saudi Arabia. The four members of the family, parents Abdullah and Rosalie and their children, Faisal and Mariam are each struggling with their own problems. There's a lack of communication between the four and the parents don't behave as if they have much interest in the lives of their children. I was extremely frustrated with Abdullah and Rosalie because they were so caught in their own issues and paid little attention to what was going on with their children. They noticed that Faisal had become angry, sullen and, occasionally, impertinent in the last year but they did nothing about. And Mariam gets in trouble at school almost everyday for ignoring the restrictions placed on girls. Rather than take any real action, Abdullah and Rosalie treat her behavior as an aggravating nuisance.

Faisal and Mariam's parents are self-centered, too focused on money and their lifestyle and too caught up in the power the wealth provides them. They fail to see Faisal is confused and struggling to figure out and what he believes and don't take Mariam seriously. I quickly grew tired of Abdullah and Rosalie and aggravated by them. They didn't change o r start to understand and pay attention to their children so I wasn’t sorry for what happened to them, it was their own fault. The only way Faisal could get their attention was to take drastic action.

I found the sections of the narrative that described the cultural and political life in Saudi Arabia interesting. There seems to be conflict between conservative and liberal values and confusion over which is better and which to follow. Individuals with power and wealth are particularly impacted by the American way of life and some revere it while others condemn it. But the narrative dragged in several places particularly when Abdullah and Rosalie sat and contemplated their past and present lives and what they wanted out of life. I think some of the problem for me was Ms. Parssinen‘s writing style didn‘t flow. I thought it was somewhat stilted although I thought the sections with dialogue a little more fluid.

I really hoped while reading The Ruins of Us, that Miriam would have a more substantial role in the book but when I was little more than halfway through the book, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Miriam, at 14, is smart, precocious and enjoys pushing boundaries, believing women should have more rights in Saudi Arabia and the laws need to change. She has an internship at her uncle’s newspaper and writes a blog but, although we’re told about these interesting elements, little is done with them.

It’s difficult for me to say I recommend this book although the cultural and political aspects of life in Saudi Arabia are interesting as is the influence of America on the people living in Saudi Arabia. My big issues was the characters of the parents. Several other bloggers enjoyed this book, so for a different opinion check out these reviews:

Tiny Library
BookPeople’s Blog
Take Me Away

To learn more about The Ruins of Us and author Keija Parssinen check out her Website and Facebook page

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review The Ruins of Us and to Harper Perennial for an ARC copy of the book.


  1. I think I enjoyed this one a little more than you did, but I can totally see your point on the relationship between the parents and their children. I do think it's harder to maintain that kind of contact and care with your children when they are teenagers, but Rosalie and Abdullah could have done a much better job. This was a very insightful post today, and I enjoyed reading your thoughts very much!

  2. Firstly, I have to say, I love the name Mariam! I had much higher hopes for this book based on the cover and synopsis. I may still read it but I'll have to think about it.

  3. Lovely review. I've heard mixed reviews on this one -- it either works for folks or doesn't -- and usually it's the narrative style that is cited. I suspect this one would bug me so I'm going to pass -- the issues you raised would totally drive me nuts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Sounds like the parents would frustrate me, too! Based on the bogged down narrative and the lack of writing flow that you mention, I'll probably pass on this one.

  5. I just read Ziblees review on this one and it seems she enjoyed it a bit more. Seems like a somewhat tough book, but I do like flawed characters.

    Great review Amy.

  6. Don't think this is a book for me. I really need to expand my reading a bit to incorporate books about other cultures but I've yet to do that.

  7. I've seen a few other who felt similar to you. I don't think this book is for me.

  8. I'd definitely enjoy the setting but I think the parents would annoy me too!

  9. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a favorite for you, but thanks for being a part of the tour.

  10. This sounds like something I'd like. Novels with details of life in Saudi Arabia are hard to find. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.