01 November 2012

a few photos and Drowning Ruth book review

Not feelin so hot, so today's post is gonna be a two-in-one because I am not up to separating them. Pretty sure I am going to nourish myself with some McDonald's fries and big fat Diet Coke when I'm done writing this.

Anyhoo ... 

Last night, we headed out to Trunk or Treat. 

We ate hotdogs.

And we dressed as a bluegrass band with the S.I.L. and B.I.L. :

I thought the moon was very Halloween-y too, even though it wasn't a full moon.

By the time we got home at 9:00, I felt like HELL.

Don't you hate colds? It's not like you have the flu, but it's still enough that you just feel like dammit.
I could have sworn somebody had drugged me and stuffed my sinuses and entire brain with cotton.

Since I couldn't sleep anyway, I read this book until 2:30, and then finally fell asleep at 4:30.

I realize I'm a little behind here - or like, 12 years behind, since the book was published in 2000. But, the book was gooooood.
I couldn't have put it down even if I wasn't up all night with a cold.

This #1 New York Times Bestseller is categorized as a psychological thriller, and I will agree that the story definitely has a haunting element, as there is a mysterious drowning, and a huge family secret, which could potentially ruin numerous relationships. But to me, it speaks just as much to the complications in women's relationships - sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, friends. There is love, but not simple, clean cut, unconditional love. Rather, it's love tainted by jealousy, selfishness, and unnatural attachment, which is spurred by childhood baggage, death, and decisions that result in one secret after another.

Drowning Ruth is told from the alternating viewpoints of the three main female characters, who are all somewhat troubled, with shifts back and forth in time. To me, this has a dramatic impact on the reader's interpretation of the story. The book is also divided into two parts. Part One sort of sets the foundation in the early part of the story, but leaves the reader with a lot of questions. Part Two is later in time, and pieces of the puzzle are given, but not too many at once. Because the book's main characters have been through a great deal of grief, heartache and loss, their sanity wavers at points in the story. In addition, some characters were absent for a time, or too young to accurately recall events as they truly were. As a result, the reader truly has to rely on all characters' view points to fully piece together what really happened all those years ago.

I loved the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and the further I got into Drowning Ruth, the more the two books reminded me of each other - not the plots, but the complexity of the female characters' feelings toward one another, and the jealousy, selfishness and loneliness that sometimes accompanies motherhood, sisterhood, and female relationships in general. {While we're on that note, I recommend getting the boxed set with both books, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Little Alters Everywhere because it is much more in depth. Little Alters Everywhere is also told from all characters' view points, including Willetta the maid, Chaney the farmhand, and the other siblings as they were growing up.}

There were Reading Guide Questions and Topics for Discussion in the back of the book that I thought gave a good idea of the meat of the story. {I've eliminated portions that contained spoilers.}
  1. Throughout the story, Amanda seems to be alternately portrayed as either sinister and mentally unbalanced or as a sad woman who is a victim of circumstance. What are your feelings about her? Were you mostly sympathetic to her or turned off by her controlling spirit?

  2. Did you find most of the main players in Drowning Ruth to be complicated and not easily categorized? Who intrigued you the most?

  3. Do you think the author skillfully built up the suspense of the fateful night on the lake? Did you guess what would happen?

  4. Ruth and Amanda’s relationship is one of the most compelling elements of the novel. At times they are presented in a mother/daughter dynamic, but at other moments they seem poised as siblings almost, or even as foils to each other– especially when Amanda speaks to us about her own childhood. How do you think Amanda regarded Ruth? What, in your mind, was the real significance of their relationship? Did Amanda truly love Ruth?

  5. The lake is a striking backdrop throughout the novel, and most of the traumatic or profound moments occur there: {this portion omitted - spoiler} Do you think the author intended for it to be symbolic of something? If so, what?

  6. The complicated and varied relationships between women– friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces–lie at the heart of this novel. Did any of these relationships, in particular, strike a chord with you?

  7. Do you feel that Amanda’s jealousy of her sister was abnormal or just common sibling rivalry? Why do you think the author juxtaposed their relationship with Ruth and Imogene’s?

  8. Men hover at the edges of the novel. The three main male characters–Carl, Clement, Arthur–though different, are all ultimately ineffectual in some sense. {this portion omitted - spoiler} Why do you think the author created these male characters this way?

  9. The island seems to be a very important metaphor. {this portion omitted - spoiler} What does the island represent?

  10. Did you like the continuously shifting narration? What was the overall effect of this plot device?

  11. Ruth and Imogene’s intense friendship commences with the voluntary loss of Ruth’s dead, black tooth. Why do you think the author chose such an unusual, visually graphic scene to mark the unfolding of their intertwined lives?

  12. In the end, does Ruth follow her heart, or is she still under Amanda’s control? {this portion omitted - spoiler}

  13. Were the book to continue, do you think the author would have chosen {this portion omitted - spoiler}? Why or why not? What type of man do you envision Ruth with?

  14. Drowning Ruth was an Oprah Book Club selection. Have you read any other Oprah picks? If so, how did this compare?

So, if these twelve years have gone by and you haven't read Drowning Ruth, I highly recommend!!

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