11 September 2012

Book Review: Drowning Ruth

Title: Drowning Ruth
Author: Christina Schwarz
Publisher/Year: Ballantine / 2000
Source/Format: Borrow / Print
Date Finished: 10 September 2012
Book # 40

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
The mysterious drowning of Mathilda Neumann drastically alters the lives of her daughter, sister, and husband as they try to cope with their loss...and their secrets.

A Bit of a Ramble
Flitting back and forth in time and between voices, Drowning Ruth's narrative structure is at once intriguing and annoying. The story is designed to slowly and carefully reveal the truth of what happened and the details of what is happening as each character gets a chance to talk only briefly, and at least one character is not exactly forthcoming about her life story. Also, the story moves in time with no clear indication of the chronological shift. While I enjoy this teasing method, I was occasionally frustrated, needing a second to determine the when of the events being narrated. I am not entirely sure if this frustration is due to a lack of skill in the writing, or just my overtired brain.

The story itself is rather tantalizing : the mysterious drowning, the unclear tragic events of one character's past, the mistaken ideas characters' have about the past, the possessive-to-the-point-of-obsession nature of the main character. The characters are psychologically interesting, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn't progress; all of them really end up in the same place they started mentally (and some of them really needed to grow).

I will say, however, that the psyche of the characters was more interesting to me than the mystery itself. The (arguable) main character, Amanda, displays an obsession with her niece, Ruth, that is disturbingly fascinating. Raising Ruth as her own after Mathilda's drowning, Amanda spends the next twenty-some-odd years building an umbilical cord between the two of them that not even a chainsaw could break. Carl, Mathilda's husband, and Ruth's quirks were just as fun to me, and these were the parts of the book I found most interesting.

If you are looking for a psychological thriller, it's a good read, but it ends up with only an Accept rating for me due to the overly complicated narrative structure and the lack of character growth.


  1. Good review. I read this earlier this year and I agree that the psyche of the characters is more fascinating than finding out what happened to Mathilda. I remember thinking wouldn't it be messed up if Carl and Amanda got together...

    Here's my review, if you're interested:

  2. You should know that every time I see a post from you pop up in my Google Reader my mind screams "Trishaaaaaaaa!!" Too bad you can't hear me. :-D Or maybe it's a good thing. I'm a bit screechy when I scream.

    This book sounds vaguely familiar. Very vaguely. Wish I could remember if I actually read it!

  3. You write a very good review. Not sure I can squeeze it in anytime soon but if it happens upon my path, I will accept it.

  4. I think I have this somewhere … the title sounds familiar but there may be other books that have the same name or something similar.

    And by the way, I haven't forgotten about our game of tag. I'm getting to it soon … I SWEAR!

  5. I don't know if I would stick with this one, given that the characters don't grow at all, but I am very interested in this niece/aunt relationship. I might have to try this one on audio, and see what I think. By the way, this was a wonderfully written review!

  6. Um that cover is absolutely gorgeous!

  7. I read this one YEARS ago and remember liking it a lot. Would be interesting to read it now. I'm not sure I paid much attention to such details as character development 12 years ago. Wait--surely this book is older than 2000!!!

  8. I really like the ways that books can explore our relationship with the past and how we can so often misremember things. Sounds interesting to me for that reason, but yeah, also sounds a bit too complicated for my brain!


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