The Ruins of Us

( 12 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Parssinen’s gripping, well-crafted debut tracks the awakening of a Saudi Arabian family to the dangers that lurk within. Twenty-five years into her marriage to wealthy Abdullah al-Baylani, the American Rosalie is shattered to find that her husband has taken another wife, and worries about the effect this will have on their teenage children, Faisal and Mariam. Rosalie and Abdullah’s love began in college in Texas, a bond deepened by the fact that Rosalie grew up in Saudi Arabia, “on the State Oil compound just outside of Al Dawoun and possessed that displaced expatriate child’s longing—more like an illness, really—for a home that no longer existed.” While Rosalie turns inward and Abdullah spends time with his Palestinian second wife, Faisal distances himself and, appalled by his father’s drinking and his mother’s American ways, delves deeply into a Koranic study group with a charismatic leader whose anti-American sermons light a dangerous fire inside the new pupil. Born in Saudi Arabia and having spent a decade there, Parssinen deftly illuminates Saudi Arabian life through a family locked in a battle over morality and cultural chasms. Agent: Fletcher & Company. (Jan.)
Boston Globe
“Absorbing. . . . A testament to Parssinen’s literary talent, this woven narrative moves seamlessly, chapter by chapter, as the suspenseful story escalates.”
National Geographic Traveler
“Keija Parssinen vividly evokes daily reality in the Kingdom. . . . While she portrays the physical and social landscapes with the precision of an impassioned expat, Parssinen also limns-with a wisdom that belies her age-the culture-transcending contours of the human heart.”
T: The New York Times Style Magazine
"Keija Parssinen was a third-generation expat in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, and she summons its atmosphere of fraught privilege in her debut novel, The Ruins of Us."
Marie Claire (UK)
“A compelling debut.”
The Guardian
“An intelligent, complex story of interfaith marriage. . . . That balances nail-biting tension with lyrical intent.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Having been brought up in Saudi Arabia, [Parssinen] knows the background and writes boldly and unsentimentally of a family’s predicament at the edge of cultural fault lines.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Extraordinarily polished, supremely mature.”
Columbia Daily Tribune
“[Parssinen] digs deep in this narrative, and what she unearths is exquisitely wrought.”
The National
“[An] accomplished debut novel . . . clearly the work of a gifted storyteller.”
Amanda Eyre Ward
The Ruins of Us is a stunning debut novel—a love story that spans continents. Parssinen teaches us that while cultural differences run deep, when it comes to matters of the heart, we are all the same. I was dazzled by this book.”
Scott Spencer
“THE RUINS OF US tells a gripping story about Saudi Arabian princes and bureaucrats, wives and extra-wives, sons and daughters, fanatics and exiles. . . . [Keija Parssinen] directs the human and historical traffic with a maestro’s sense of pace, and a true storyteller’s sense of consequence.”
Anthony Swofford
“THE RUINS OF US is an arresting story of family and country. Parssinen’s characters are richly conceived and her evocative petrol universe of wealth, privilege, and intrigue is unforgettable. Powerful storytelling that is refreshing and entertaining.”
Anna Solomon
“A big, brave novel, Keija Parssinen’s THE RUINS OF US takes us behind the compound walls of Saudi Arabia and into the secret passions that threaten to tear one family apart. Step into Parssinen’s sensual prose and be transported.”
Lise Saffran
“Parssinen carries the reader . . . in the grip of a story that is both entertaining and wise. . . . The debut of an enormously talented writer who is unafraid to lead us on the greatest adventure of all—into the wilds of the human heart.”
Zoe Ferraris
"This stunning novel explores some emotionally explosive territory—what happens when a Muslim man takes a second wife after many years of marriage to his first one. Parssinen handles it with grace, intelligence, and gorgeous prose—a transporting and beautiful book."
T: The New York Times Style Magazine
“Keija Parssinen was a third-generation expat in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, and she summons its atmosphere of fraught privilege in her debut novel, The Ruins of Us.”
Zoë Ferraris
“This stunning novel explores some emotionally explosive territory—what happens when a Muslim man takes a second wife after many years of marriage to his first one. Parssinen handles it with grace, intelligence, and gorgeous prose—a transporting and beautiful book.”
Kirkus Reviews
A Saudi patriarch's decision to take a second wife unsettles more than just his American-raised spouse. Rosalie, the heroine of Parssinen's debut novel, has spent more than two decades living in Saudi Arabia, and she's resigned herself to the country's sexist constraints: the headscarves she must wear, the cars she's not allowed to drive, the subservience she must project to her husband, Abdullah, at least in public. But when she discovers that Abdullah has had a second wife for two years, her combative Texas roots reemerge, and she begins voicing her anger and pondering an escape. Guiding her in that direction is Dan, an American-born former boyfriend of hers and an employee of Abdullah. But Rosalie can't easily get away when her two teenaged children require attention. Her daughter, Mariam, is increasingly Westernized, writing a blog that risks angering the authorities, while her son, Faisal, is enchanted by radical Islam and prone to increasingly vehement anti-American rhetoric. The pieces are a little too neatly arranged on the plot's chessboard, and the novel's climactic chapters, which involve a kidnapping, voice familiar messages about zealotry and cross-cultural understanding. But Parsinnen convincingly inhabits the shifting moods of her characters; writing in close third person, she follows Dan, Abdullah, Rosalie and the children (though, interestingly, Abdullah's second wife remains largely a blank). Parsinnen also exposes plenty about life in Saudi Arabia, from the subtle politicking among the ruling emirs to the punishing desert heat to the tactics of girl-chasing boys at the shopping malls. Throughout, her prose is artful without being showy, forced, or melodramatic, and her knowledge of Saudi culture informs the story, instead of making this a stock infidelity tale with some exotic touches. A fine debut that uses its knowledge of both Saudi Arabia and psychology to transcend some overly schematic character arrangements.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062064486
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 321
  • Sales rank: 277,112
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Keija Parssinen was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for twelve years as a third-generation expatriate. She earned a degree in English literature from Princeton University and received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship. For The Ruins of Us, her first novel, she received a Michener-Copernicus Award. She lives with her husband on the edge of a quarry in Missouri.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    A fascinating story powerfully told

    The authenticity of the characters,along with descriptions of their culture and geography is persuasive and gripping as this story offers a glimpse into a world we need to better understand. This well-crafted first novel would, I think, appeal to adults of all ages and would provide great material for a book club discussion.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Book

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2012

    Excellant Family Drama!

    The Ruins Of Us is a deeply complex and moving drama that is as telling and current as a glimpse into the family structure that is our time. It is the story of Rosalie al-Baylani, an American, who married a wealthy Saudi businessman and left all she knew to move to Saudi Arabia to become his wife and together they raised a family.
    It is twenty years later when her world, that she sacrificed so much for, is torn apart by learning that her husband had taken a second wife two years prior. The unraveling, this truth begins the destruction of the life she held so dear or as the story goes on, the illusion of.
    But if is far more than just Rosalie's story. It is the story of her husband, her son and her daughter and the complex world they live in but have not been quite accepted into. It is the story of race, of religion and finally above all else, family.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    An excellent story. I could not put it down. I highly recommen

    An excellent story. I could not put it down. I highly recommend.

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  • Posted September 16, 2012

    I lovedthis book! The characters were well developed and realist

    I lovedthis book! The characters were well developed and realistic. The story situation is one that some American women find themselves in and is very thought provoking. Love is not the only consideration when making decisions about family. This story brings up culture in a very sensitive manner.

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    I loved the story and the insight about the Islamic culture. It

    I loved the story and the insight about the Islamic culture. It was light reading and would be an excellent suggestion for a book club.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2012

    Mamasaint

    This is a really good read. It will be a while before I read it again, because I don't like crying. The story has stayed with me. Excellent for a new author.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted October 21, 2012

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    Posted February 27, 2012

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    Posted April 2, 2014

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    Posted December 9, 2012

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    Posted May 10, 2012

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