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Book Review: The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen

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The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen is a fictional book set in Saudi Arabia. The book is a character study of marriage in the midst of a culture clash.

American born Rosalie grew up in an army base in Saudi Arabia. In college Rosalie met and fell in love with Abdullah Bayla who married her and they decided to raise a family in Saudi Arabia.

Rosalie discovers that Abdullah has taken a second wife. While Abdullah and Rosalie are involved in their own personal mass, they don’t pay attention to their sixteen year old son, Faisal, who is becoming more and more extreme.

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen starts off slow but picks up towards the end. The protagonist, Rosalie, finds out that her loving husband has hidden a second wife from her, but Rosalie is a Texas girl.

The interesting part, for me, is the descriptions of a part of the world which, unfortunately, I will most likely never get to visit and that of a foreign culture. The descriptions of the beautiful and not-so-beautiful parts of Saudi Arabia were wonderfully written and the cultural issues expatriates have to deal with were fascinating.

The characters were engaging and some even likeable, but I felt that the story could have used a bit more emphasis on the cultural implications and acceptance of polygamy. I would have liked to read more about the relationship between the two women and about the second wife, her thoughts and feelings and cultural acceptance.

One of the things that really struck home is Rosalie’s rose colored view of her childhood world. Rosalie grew up in Saudi Arabia as a child and then her parents moved back to the US. Remembering her childhood Rosalie wanted to go back and live in Saudi Arabia and has done so with all the good and bad it entails. I know that I still feel a longing to my childhood birth place; however, when I go there it’s not the same and I know that it will never be.

This book reminded me of:
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shon­eyin

Get this book from Amazon in paper or electronic (Kindle) format.

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