Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review:: Drowning Ruth

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz

This complex novel begins in the early 1920s, and centers around an oddly blended family, living on a small farm near the great lakes, and their secrets.  Amanda, a nursing student who becomes pregnant after being wooed by a married man, returns home to live with her sister, Mathilda.  Mathilda's husband, Carl, has volunteered to serve in the army during the war, leaving Mathilda to raise their small daughter, Ruth, alone.  At first, the reunion is a happy one,and the sisters hide the shameful pregnancy, planning an elaborate scheme to explain away the sudden appearance of a newborn on their farm.  In a cruel twist of fate, Mathilda drowns after falling through the ice on the frozen lake, and Amanda is left to raise Ruth as her own until Carl returns home from the war.  She uses the story that she and her sister concocted and gives the baby to a wonderful, childless couple in town.  When Carl finally returns injured and distant, this unlikely trio lives together throughout the years, tip-toeing around the traumas of one another, and manage to be a family, albeit a strained one. Throughout the story, Amanda conceals the truth of what happened to Mathilda, and even goes so far as to try to mold Ruth's memories of the event she witnessed as a toddler.  Her motives are always unclear, and the relationships between Amanda, Carl, and Ruth are dysfunctional and constantly in question.  As expected, eventually Ruth befriends Amanda's daughter, and certain events force Amanda come out with the truth about everything. 

The overall tone of this novel was just pure sadness and tragedy.  It perfectly illustrates the division and heartbreak caused by secrecy and lies.  The motives behind those secrets and lies may have been noble, but in the end, unnecessarily complicated relationships and changed the paths of the lives of everyone involved.  

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