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The Ruins of California
     

The Ruins of California

5.0 1
by Martha Sherrill
 

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For the Ruin family in 1970s California, as described by the precocious young Inez, life is complex. Her father, Paul, is self-obsessed, intrusive, and brilliant. He's also twice divorced, leaving Inez to bounce between two worlds and embracing neither-that of Paul's bohemian life in San Francisco and the more sedate world of her mother Connie, a Latin bombshell who

Overview

For the Ruin family in 1970s California, as described by the precocious young Inez, life is complex. Her father, Paul, is self-obsessed, intrusive, and brilliant. He's also twice divorced, leaving Inez to bounce between two worlds and embracing neither-that of Paul's bohemian life in San Francisco and the more sedate world of her mother Connie, a Latin bombshell who plays tennis and attends EST seminars in the suburbs. As Inez progresses through high school we are witness to a remarkable family saga that renders a strange and fascinating slice of America in transition-one like the Ruins of California themselves, at once bold and innocent, creative and chaotic, obsessed and liberating.

Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
This book isn't for everyone, but I don't want to know the people it isn't for. This is for people with broken homes and smashed hearts and extraordinary bravery and gallantry and imagination. This novel is for those who love their families with a terrible love and prize filial piety above all things, even though that family -- and it's bound to be overextended -- appears bound straight for Hell in several different handbaskets. It's about practicing courage and manners and tradition even as Dad introduces his 17th girlfriend. Yes, it's about self-destruction, but it's really about love -- the real thing -- about how we get it and how we keep it. I'm crazy about The Ruins of California. It gives me hope for the whole human race.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
With this eccentric coming-of-age story, Sherrill (My Last Movie Star) offers an interesting, if emotionally distant, window into California culture of the 1970s as well as an almost clinical examination of one extended family. Inez Ruin is a girl caught between suburban Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother, Connie (a former dancer), and her working class grandmother Abuelita, and San Francisco, where her sports car-driving, guitar-playing computer scientist father, Paul, parades a series of beautiful girlfriends. This unconventional family also includes a rich paternal grandmother (an artist's model in her glory days) and an adored hippie surfer half-brother, Whitman. Though Inez's evolution from passive observer to active participant in her colorful world is the story's driving force, the novel lacks a substantive structure. Sherrill describes Inez's world with reportorial precision, but the accumulation of detail doesn't always contribute to the narrative's momentum, giving the story a memoirish rather than a novelistic feel. By the end, however, the relationship between Inez and her father blossoms into the emotional center of this offbeat tale. Agent, Flip Brophy. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Poor Inez; she's caught between the security afforded by her mom and immigrant grandmother and the sophistication promised by her glamorous but irresponsible dad. With a West Coast tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Family saga that rises above the limits of that genre. Inez Ruin, daughter of an erstwhile flamenco dancer and a university professor, traces her family relationships from grade school to college. As the story opens, it's the late '60s, and precocious Inez is taking stock of the important people in her life. Her brilliant, charismatic and needy father is at the top of her list. Although she doesn't live with him, his constant letters, his string of beautiful girlfriends and his wealthy family tantalize Inez, especially because her mother seems dedicated to providing Inez with a sanitized and boring suburban life. Although her father's egotism can be overpowering, his non-conformity, evident in everything from his taste in drugs to his San Francisco house, promises escape from the blandness of her school and her friends. Inez matures into a thoughtful young woman who observes the world closely, keeping an especially close watch on the people she loves. Eventually, she sees that her father and her half-brother Whitman's freedom is a version of self-destructiveness, and she steps in to repair their small family. Especially noteworthy among the many pleasures of this novel is the finely drawn character of Inez, whose emotional development over the years is subtly reflected in her changing assessments of the world. Sherrill (My Last Movie Star, 2003, etc.) ably captures the milieux of the '70s and '80s without seeming to reach for details. Her depiction of those decades-their fads, their politics, their slang, their colors and foods-is both masterful and unassuming. Technically perfect characterization in a tale that explores an imperfect family.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594482311
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/02/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
830,352
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.95(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Martha Sherrill is the author of The Buddha from Brooklyn, a work of nonfiction, and My Last Movie Star, a novel.

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Ruins of California 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel makes you strangely nostalgic for that confused and infuriating decade called the 70's. It evokes feelings of sadness, anger, angst, joy and acceptance that is at the heart of living through a time when transition was the bedrock of existence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago