Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The Ruins of California
I had to finish this book tonight, and I had to write about it.
I picked it up at Indigo a couple of weeks ago, where a paperback copy was sitting in the cheap section. I liked the cover, and the praise on the back was so effusive that I had to buy it, even though I'm trying not to buy too many books. It sat on the chair beside my bed for a week or so, and then I picked it up.
Set in California during the 70s, it is a coming of age story told from the perspective of Inez Ruin, a "baton of a girl" who shifts back and forth between the suburban life she shares with her mother and grandmother, and her visits to her father (and an array of his girlfriends) in San Francisco. Inez is among my favourite characters I've read lately. She is so well drawn and true, and whenever I opened the book I could feel myself stepping into her skin - I could feel its warmth. It is fascinating to move with Inez from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood - the changes in her are both significant and subtle, and they happen so organically that it feels like life, the way that things just happen; things are one way and then, gradually, suddenly, they are another.
This is a book about love in all of its forms, but mostly about love in families, and the complications that love entails. Every moment I spent reading it felt like... being in the best parts of the world.
My favourite line: Her shyness and awkwardness weren't an obstacle to knowing her anymore, but an opening where you could see her heart.
Highly recommended. As Carolyn See wrote in her Washington Post Book World review, "[The Ruins of California] isn't for everyone, but I don't want to know the people it isn't for."