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The Ruins of Us

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  1,265 Ratings  ·  236 Reviews

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

Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2012)
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Amy I read this book after reading a positive review of it on the blog of an American expat who was married to a Saudi and lived in KSA (American Bedu). I…moreI read this book after reading a positive review of it on the blog of an American expat who was married to a Saudi and lived in KSA (American Bedu). I have never lived in KSA, but I have been fascinated by it and have studied it for years, and I think this book and Girls of Riyadh are the two most accurate depictions of the culture in fiction. It's been a few years since I've read The Ruins of Us, but I don't remember any glaring errors about the culture or about Islam. There is a plotline about a character getting involved with a fundamentalist movement, but it's handled well and respectfully, in my opinion (No overgeneralizing, nothing offensive to Islam).

This is head and shoulders above, for example, Zoe Ferraris books, which are so chock full of inaccuracies, like really, really basic things, that I couldn't get past page two. You can tell she never left the compound during her time in KSA.

I think it's worth a read! :)(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Julia Fierro
Feb 02, 2012 Julia Fierro rated it it was amazing
I often hesitate before reading debut novels, but Ruins Of Us reads as if it is written by a wise and experienced writer. The characters are complex and the ideas seamlessly embedded within their actions and reactions. This was an effortless read and I was swept into the incredible landscape, but I was also inspired to think and react, which makes it a perfect read for me. Keija Parssinen's ambitious, and successful, first novel is a clear prediction of the many outstanding novels to come from t ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Danderma rated it did not like it
Ever since I read about this novel in one of the UK’s magazines I had wanted to read it. The potential of the story is alluring: An American lady who married the love of her life, a Saudi billionaire, and move with him to KSA to bring up their family, discovers after 27 years of marriage that he had taken up a second younger wife. Meanwhile the couples eldest son is sixteen and has been involved with a controversial religious man.

Now the writer has a great story to write about. What would a woma
Jan 22, 2012 Jenny rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Sooo... I started reading this a while ago and I initially put it down because I had some problems with some parts of the story (I'll explain in a bit) and I really did not like the characters. That was maybe 50 pages or so in, and I considered just writing my review based on what I felt at that moment. But because of my reading slump issues from last year, and really wanting to thoroughly fulfill my obligations to TLC Book Tours, I decided to keep reading and just see if I changed my mind. But ...more
Growing up in an expatriate family in Saudi Arabia afflicts the main character Rosalie in many ways. She isn't able to find her place when returning to America, and for many years she dreams about the land of the dunes. When, many years later, she meets Abdullah, a Saudi sheik, and moves back to the Kingdom to start a family, she can finally breathe. Furthermore, being the wife of one of the richest men in the world has its advantages and there is nothing missing in her life. However, many years ...more
Nov 15, 2011 Anna rated it really liked it
This is an incredibly ambitious first novel, and Parssinen delivers a big cast of fully-rendered, lovable, and flawed characters whose secrets and desires threaten to destroy them. It's set in Saudi Arabia, yes, and many of the conflicts are particular to this place and culture - yet the humanity on display here is far more universal. A vivid, moving book.
Jun 10, 2012 thewanderingjew rated it really liked it
This is a magnetic narrative which is wrapped around the love of an expat, Rosalie, and her Saudi husband, Abdullah. They meet as students, at a Texas University, and after they marry, Abdullah convinces Rosalie to return to his native country. She had been raised there, because her father had worked for an oil company, and needs little persuasion. The pull of the country was drawing her back and she was eager to go. Forgetting her hippy past and disregarding the lack of freedom for women, she r ...more
Dec 06, 2011 Nina rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I received an ARC e-galley of this book through NetGalley.

It would be easy for a novel written by an American writer about an American woman who married a Saudi man and moved to Saudi Arabia, only to discover years later that he had taken a second wife, to sink into a dramatic focus on mistreatment of women. However, this novel rises above that. Born to an expatriate family in Saudi Arabia, Keija Parssinen is the perfect person to tell this story. No, things are not equal between men
Jean Blackwood
Jun 23, 2013 Jean Blackwood rated it it was amazing
This is a really wonderful book. The family portrays the anguish of the US-Mideast conflicts in microcosm, but because the author lets us see into the hearts and minds of each member the conflicts are human and complex, with no clear good guys and bad guys and no clear solutions.

It is quite amazing to me that such a young author has such empathy and insight into people of different ages, genders, and cultures. She brings all of them fully to life and makes us sympathize with both their strengths
Oct 26, 2011 Erica added it
I read this a while ago, but it wasn't up yet on goodreads so I'm just adding it in now. But I'm going through the trouble of adding it in because I really enjoyed it. It's the story of an American woman married to a Saudi Arabian man who finds out that he's taken a second wife. Even though it takes place in Saudi Arabia and not India, it really reminded me of the writing of Thrity Umrigar in the way it explored the things that make a foreign place both so strange and so familiar, and the way it ...more
Lindsey Rowe
May 27, 2013 Lindsey Rowe rated it really liked it
I wish I could give 4.5 stars because, while I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I save 5 for my absolute, all time favorites. This novel gives a personalized glimpse into a very foreign culture, through richly developed characters. The plot gains steady momentum, culminating into a suspenseful denouement (that's for you, Mom!). I sat there reading while my kids hung from the ceiling fan. Definitely worth reading.
Jun 13, 2013 Stacia rated it it was amazing
This book was captivating. It allowed me a glimpse into a very unknown world. So richly and beautifully written. I highly recommend this!!
Tara Chevrestt
This is not about the ruins of just "us." It's about the ruins of a family. Who'd have thunk that taking on another wife could lead to so many problems? (sarcasm)
Abdullah is the head of the family and rather than fix his relationship with his longtime American wife, Rosalie, he takes another wife and sets her up in a house down the street. According to Saudi law, this is okay. According to Rosalie, it is not. When the secret is revealed to the rest of the family, everything comes to a head.

Jill Orr
Dec 02, 2011 Jill Orr rated it it was amazing
Keija Parssinen’s captivating debut novel, The Ruins of Us, explores the universal themes of love, betrayal, and resiliency set against the backdrop of modern Saudi Arabian culture. American-born Rosalie Al-Baylani lives a comfortable life in Saudi Arabia. She loves her husband, adores her children, and has grown accustomed to being a wife and a mother in the country she has been fascinated with since she was a girl. But Rosalie’s life is shattered when she learns that her husband of 25 years, t ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Evelyn rated it really liked it
Nice surprise. I picked this one up at the airport, drawn to it because it took place in Saudi Arabia, a place I'm curious about but not in any way drawn to. It's the first book by this writer and it was impressive. Beautiful, lyrical writing, and something of a strange fever-dream feeling if I'm being honest.

The story centers around the deterioration of a 27 year marriage between Rosalie, a spirited American woman and Abdullah, a wealthy Saudi man who thinks himself modern and enlightened, but
Have you ever read a book so fast because there was a story but the writing was really boring and you wanted to know what will happen at the end? That was my case with this book. I finished it in 3 days even though I didn't enjoy reading it at all.

There is a story about an American lady who fell in love with a Saudi man, married him and went back to his country to spend the rest of her life and raise their children. After years of living together, she finds out that her husband is married to ano
Lise Saffran
Oct 28, 2011 Lise Saffran rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I am a sucker for novels set in locales with which I am not familiar, but that draw me in by getting me involved in the characters' emotional struggles. It's a great feeling to pick up a book and expect to be taken somewhere new and then realize that while you have been, one of the places you have been taken is inside yourself! I found all the characters interesting and plausible, but was particularly invested in Rosalie, both because I recognized her anguish as a mother and a ...more
Jenny S
Sep 01, 2013 Jenny S rated it it was amazing
I read this book because it is our community's One Read selection for 2013. Based on a few reviews and several friends' lukewarm comments, I did not expect to enjoy it. What a pleasant surprise to find that it was an engrossing read. It deals with many complex issues - family, different cultures, raising children - with a realistic, honest approach. In addition, it is suspenseful so that I wanted to keep reading. The descriptions were clear, uncluttered, without being too lean. I thought the aut ...more
Hayriddin Ravshanov
Nov 04, 2012 Hayriddin Ravshanov rated it really liked it
THis is a pleasant read with interesting characters and a story set in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Rosalie, even after decades of living in Saudi Arabia with her husband, finds that there are still some aspects of the culture she can't get used to, like her husband taking a second wife, which is so ordinary for the native people but unacceptable for ROsalie.

YOu will surely enjoy reading this wonderful book!
Dec 01, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing
A beautiful debut novel from an author I look forward to reading in the years to come. In The Ruins of Us, Keija Parssinen proves it is possible in the literary fiction universe for character and plot to coexist peacefully ( not to mention pretty damn exquisitely!). A truly spectacular read. Come for the prose, stay for the jihad! (The blurb is yours to use, Harper Perennial.)
Carina Burns
Jul 18, 2012 Carina Burns rated it it was amazing
As a former resident of Jeddah, I was eager to delve into this book. From the beginning I loved it. Beautifully written, fascinating characters and the universal themes kept me captivated right up to the end. Chock full of love, family, betrayal and anger. Great intrigue and romance!!!! ABSOLUTELY LOVED this story.
Kathy Buford
Mar 17, 2017 Kathy Buford rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, couldn't put it down.
Jessica Lawrence
Oct 04, 2013 Jessica Lawrence rated it it was amazing
THE RUINS OF US is an outstanding novel. The story is well wrought, the characters live and breathe from page to page, and the setting is stunningly rendered. Unlike many first novels, which (however well written) have a tendency to be sprawling and somewhat unfocused, THE RUINS OF US is unfolded with a masterful steadiness and sense of pace. Parssinen’s touch is at once lyrical and deftly controlled—a difficult balance to strike.

The novel begins when Rosalie al-Baylani learns that her husband,
Sandra Olshaski
Feb 07, 2012 Sandra Olshaski rated it really liked it
The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen
ISBN: 978-0-06-2064448-6
Published: 2012
Harper Collins
Trade paperback, 321 pages

Exotic Saudi Arabia is the setting for this stunning debut novel that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. It is mystery, romance, real-life family drama, and political intrigue all rolled into one magnificently-told tale!

Forty-seven-year-old, American-born Rosalie is married to fabulously rich and handsome Saudi businessman, Abdullah (Abdi), with whom she has two children. They
Jun 23, 2012 Duaa rated it it was amazing
i stumbled onto this book when i was on a trip to dubai, i was looking for a book based in an arab cultured country i didn't think i could ever fine a book based in Saudi Arabia,my home , but then i noticed the ruins of us and even thou it wasn't the kind of story i seemed interested in i thought no way this could be legal back home so i might as well take it, let me state this i never saw the specialness in saudi i never appreciated the vast desert the way the country bloomed from that desert i ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Judith rated it really liked it
There are several powerful themes explored through the splendid characterizations of the Baylani family and the their homelands. Rosalie and Abdullah Baylani meet in America when Rosalie is a free-spirited young girl singing in a night club. Rosalie had lived in Saudi Arabia when she was a child and her relationship with Abdullah takes her back to a nostalgic longing for the country of her youth. Their strong love compels Abdullah to marry her against traditions of his own family and he and Rosa ...more
شيماء دعبس
Reading a book like that was really an enjoyable experience; the language is extremely sweet and touching, the plot is so attractive, the story line is very interesting … but all of that couldn’t be everything. I’m afraid, we cannot ignore the core thing.

Always CRITICIZING THE OTHERS’ CANNOT BE EASY! More than, sometimes it’s not acceptable! In the novel we see both, a writer and a protagonist are fond of the Arabia, Saudi Arabia, and its Desert. Even if she didn’t intend it _ and that what I’
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
The Ruins of Us is a beautiful story of marriage and family set in Saudi Arabia. Rosalie is an American expatriate who grew up in Saudi Arabia and fell in the love with the country. Her family moved back to Texas, but Rosalie met and married Abdullah in college and moved back to Saudi Arabia. When the book begins, Rosalie and Abdullah have been married and living in Saudi Arabia for 25 years. When Rosalie learns that Abdullah has taken a second wife, she must decide whether she loves Saudi Arabi ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-books
Rosalie has been married to Abdullah and living in Saudi Arabia for 25 years. The couple has two teenagers and although she is American, Rosalie has immersed herself in Saudi culture. But then she discovers that her husband has taken a second wife, after all these years, and her world comes crumbling down. Told in the voices of Rosalie, Abdullah, their son Faisal, and their American friend Dan, The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen takes us deep into modern Saudi Arabian culture, and the struggles ...more
Feb 19, 2017 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book but was also frightened by it. The depiction of the radicalization of the teen son is depressing. The book covered so many modern issues, it could have been overwhelming, but I found it to be well done. The ending is very.... general. I was mad at first but I guess it just highlights how difficult these issues are.
Zohar -
Jan 03, 2012 Zohar - rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
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 s
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