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Love in the Ruins

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,431 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
Dr. Tom More has created a stethoscope of the human spirit. With it, he embarks on an unforgettable odyssey to cure mankind's spiritual flu. This novel confronts both the value of life and its susceptibility to chance and ruin.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 4th 1999 by Picador (first published 1971)
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Feb 01, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2015
“Jews wait for the Lord, Protestants sing hymns to him, Catholics say mass and eat him.”
― Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins


Every time I read Walker Percy I fall in love. I seduce myself into thinking I'm actually just a bad Catholic and promise myself that next time I get a chance I will lose myself in the desert, the woods, or anywhere I can see the cold stars and the burning sand and live forever somewhere in between.

Reading another Percy novel is like discovering an unopened can of cashews in
Nov 29, 2007 Nathan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: psychologists, alcoholics
This is Walker Percy at his misanthropic, self-hating Catholic best. The story centers around Thomas More, a self-professed "bad Catholic" who loves women and whiskey a lot more than God or his fellow man. (He basically could care less for his fellow man, and he'd probably choose his beloved Early Times over women as well). What makes him appealing is his grasp of the human condition that he is faced with, where people are continually estranged from themselves and their own swirling desires. So, ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Charles rated it did not like it
Capsule Review: Don't Read Walker Percy. Ever.

Longer Review: If somebody recommends this book (or any other of his books) to you, rest assured that that he will one day soon try to convince you that the Eagles really are rock n' roll. Afterwards, he will probably inflict some of his "poetry" on you. You know the kind of stuff I mean: four-line stanzas in ABAB that will inevitably rhyme the words "pain" with "insane," "soul" with "hole," "heart" with "apart," and "feel" with "unreal." Luckily, th
Christopher Jones
This is my favorite novel. The protagonist, Dr. Tom More, explores the possibility of simultaneously loving three women for different reasons while living in a world that is falling apart. Perhaps Percy's "Ruins" is a metaphor for the decline of our society and for Dr. More's mental illness. It isn't always clear to how much of More's paranoia is imagined, and how much is a product of his alcohol and allergy-induced visions. Percy's description of the decay of Southern Coastal society into armed ...more
Aug 27, 2008 K rated it it was amazing
This is a great Catholic novel, and an excellent satire that still holds up. My favorite character: Father Kev Kevin, the ex priest who looks like Pat O'Brien and spends his working days at the Love Clinic sitting at the vaginal console reading Commonweal....if you get why this is funny, or even if you don't, but particularly if you do, read the book.
Jun 30, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: eschatology
What was probably at one time a revolutionary, subversive and thought-provoking novel is now only a curiosity in the wake of better books by Vonnegut and Robbins and Wilson. I don't think that I will ever understand the tendency of stories from this era (the 1970s) to be so paranoid and winky. Then again, I wasn't alive at the time.

This is not to say that Percy is a bad writer, but I've come to expect more from my questionable narrators and post-apocalyptic scenarios.
Jan 29, 2009 Melody rated it it was ok
Recommended to Melody by: Brian Johnson
I slogged through this only making it because of an occasional witty descriptive phrase. The story is about the collapse of a fragmented society. Dr. Tom More has invented a device (a lapsometer) which he believes can cure people from their demons. He has his own demons too.
Some will find his writing and the plot clever and brilliantly written. I found both very tedious.
Jun 01, 2008 Parker rated it it was ok
This books reads like some dumpster baby of Kierkegaard and Clancy (Yes, Tom Clancy).
The existential inquiries into man in the face of a culture whose pace or direction cares little for its constituents is, as in The Moviegoer, a wonderful one.
Unfortunate for the fool who picks up this book to do more with it than crush a pill bug, that is about 2% of the book. The rest is a poorly edited barebones satire of autumn-century America, and as is the case with nearly all satire, difficult to keep
William Randolph
Jan 03, 2009 William Randolph rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is certainly a strange book. I read this just after reading Peter Augustine Lawler's Postmodernism Rightly Understood, which cleared up the philosophy behind the book. My general impression is that in this book Percy is settling into a didactic mode, which I don't mind since I find the theory interesting. But it could be hard to just drop in if you don't know what Percy means by “angelism,” or what he thinks of Descartes. Generally, it seems like the actions of Percy's protagonists are inco ...more
Jerod H
Aug 03, 2009 Jerod H rated it liked it
A quirky, absurdest, medical comedy set against the backdrop of the real-life oddity that is south Louisiana culture . An African American uprising, a sex laboratory (with a "panic" room), college educated hippies living in the swamp, a sniper in the abandoned golf club house, polygamy, Early Times whiskey... ...these are just some of the events and devices that Dr. Tom More encounters during the 3 day period over which the novel takes place.
With sharp wit and sound wisdom, Percy explores the f
Christopher Fulbright
Jun 19, 2012 Christopher Fulbright rated it did not like it
Hard to justify the time spent writing this review but I can't just give something one star and not explain. I thought this story was slow and meandered too long without direction. There was too much introspection, it lacked a feeling of cohesion, and there was too little meaning for everything that was happening (which wasn't much) in the first 150 pages for me to justify spending any more time with it. I just didn't care and was bored out of my mind. I had hoped for more since I'd heard great ...more
Scott Hutchins
Jul 13, 2012 Scott Hutchins rated it it was amazing
I sometimes feel a little abashed to say how much I love this book, because if you're a serious literary person you can *only* like the Moviegoer. But Love in the Ruins is the first book I ever read by Percy, and I thought it was the smartest, funniest, oddest book--all dressed up in this hilarious country-club Southern accent. The world (the late 60s) is divided into Knotheads (conservatives in a delusional rage) and the Leftpapasanes (ineffective, muddied liberals). There's a great line: "The ...more
Jason Lewis
Mar 30, 2014 Jason Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe the strangest book I've ever read.

this book is a perverse, pious, and odd angled look at the downfall of the American mind and American society. having just finished it, my head is spun with thoughts of the dislocated and disassociated nature of the prose and themes. I don't know if I should recommend it or bury it in the backyard for fear the children might stumble onto it. you'll have to decide for yourself.
Scott Kleinpeter
Jun 06, 2015 Scott Kleinpeter rated it liked it
Here is another slipstream/satire novel where the targets are The American South and America's political and religious troubles (at least as they were in the 70s, but it seems, at least to my own unschooled eye, to be the same troubles as today, only today we have more TV and internet). My friend Grieg said that Percy was trying to do what O'Connor did successfully. I suspect this statement is true. But behind it is another statement: which genre is more effective in asserting a morality (or bet ...more
Patrick Gibson
Continuing my personal Great Authors I Vaguely Remember Thinking About Reading, "Love in the Ruins," written in '71, imagines a U.S.A. in which prevalent (and sometimes contradictory) trends run to their illogical extremes -- political association becomes fragmented to the point of neo-tribalism, mainline churches become secularized to the point of banality or fixated to the point of intolerance, and psychological treatment grows increasing manipulative.
Into this world he drops Dr. Tom More, "b
Sep 07, 2009 booklady marked it as backburner
Recommended to booklady by: Robert Moynihan
Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome, "Inside the Vatican Magazine" Newsflash, Letter from Rome, #22: 'I studied the works of Walker Percy, the American Catholic novelist, when I was in college, at Harvard. I went to meet Percy in 1977. His most important book is a collection of philosophical essays entitled The Message in the Bottle.

The entire goal of his writing was to show how the historical events of Christian history constituted a "message" which brought life to people who were in the posi
Aug 10, 2011 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is a cynical, farcical, joyful ride through the not-so-apocalyptic post-America. At the beginning, Percy tells us that the end of America has come, and what is left is a fractious, conceited, egoistic culture. The liberals have their manias, the conservatives theirs, and guerilla groups hold the perimeters of society. Hippies have withdrawn "to the swamp." Tom More is somewhere in the middle of it all--a bad Catholic whose only sorrow is his lack of penitence over his wicked ways.

Yet More i
Nov 15, 2015 Connie rated it it was ok
A couple of years ago I read a lot of Walker Percy and loved his books. Reading Love in the Ruins - The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World now shows me again that there are times and conditions that are right or wrong for certain books. I've marked this book as "Read" though I stopped at 16%. (Thank you, Kindle.) I'd started it after a reference to it in somebody's essay somewhere. I didn't quite slot it in my "ugh" sub shelves because, after all, Walker Percy. But ...more
Mar 09, 2011 Bennet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels-stories
Too funny, and some of my favorite opening lines:

"Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last? Two more hours should tell the story. One way or the other. Either I am right and a catastrophe will occur, or it won't and I'm crazy. In either case, the outlook is not so good. Here I sit, in any case, against a yo
Derek Emerson
This book disappointed after rereading it from many years prior. I'm a Percy fan, having reading all his novels and many essays, but suddenly this book seems dated. While the structure seems clumsy, Percy still handles the basic questions of who we are are and how we fit in society better than most. A Catholic convert, he has a critical yet sympathetic way of challenging the faith in a way that would make most Christians squirm. In short, he takes on the tough questions and is resolved to not un ...more
Apr 10, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it
Shelves: catholic-fiction
Set in the crazy years following the Second Vatican Council, Love in the Ruins is a trenchant satire, one that oscillates its well-aimed commentary between bourgeois foolishness and an equally foolish emerging counterculture.

Our protagonist and guide through this literary landscape is psychiatrist Dr. Tom More (the saint who shares his name is a collateral ancestor). His former curate, the former Father Kev Kevin, is now married to a former nun. Kev “counsels . . . takes clinical notes, and runs
Dec 18, 2015 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: catholic
December 2015 reread. I'm learning to appreciate this book. Dr Thomas More is a drunk with emotional problems. He's also a lost Catholic. "I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellow man hardly at all. "
He makes lousy choices and would like to amend his life. But he doesn't want to because sin "is a great pleasure. "
And this book is very funny. It's also philosophical/theological.
May 14, 2009 A.K. rated it liked it
Yes, it's a bit apocalyptic, but it makes me want to spend all my summer evenings frying down south, slurping gin fizzes and making love in abandoned hotels, meanwhile making revolutionary metaphysical discoveries.

"I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth and my fellowman hardly at all. Generally I do as I please."
Yuri Bernales
Sep 23, 2014 Yuri Bernales rated it really liked it
"At least he'd have a sporting chance?"
"A sporting chance to do what?"
"To avoid your packing him off to Georgia, where they'd sink electrodes in his head, plant him like a carrot in that hothouse which is nothing more than an anteroom to a funeral parlor. Then throw the Euphoric Switch--"
"Doctor!" interrupts the Director sternly.
"Aaah!" The students blush at the word funeral. Girls try to pull their dresses down over their knees.

A great, but slightly dated satire. Walker Percy's U.S.A. at "a tim
Feb 15, 2015 Ryan rated it it was amazing
An amazing novel by Walker Percy. My first introduction to Walker Percy was "Lost in the Cosmos," so I was surprised to learn that he wrote novels, and indeed, the bulk of his writing was fiction.

In "Love in the Ruins," Dr. Thomas More, descendant of the English statesman and martyr, is a bad catholic, alcoholic, psychologist, and researcher. Living in the spiritual and emotional ruins of the collapse of Western civilization and his own life, he develops a breakthrough machine that will all allo
Dec 30, 2015 Francine rated it really liked it
This is a story about a time when people where in conflict with each other. Conflicts exist between blacks and whites, among Christian sects, within the Catholic Church, bigotry was commonplace and the world seems to be on the brink of complete collapse.

This story was published in 1971; still relevant today the story has lessons for us in the 21st century. The story is told as a futuristic cautionary tale, I believe. It's set at the end of the automobile age, most cars just don't work.

The plants
Jun 08, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing
It took a while to hook me in, but after several false starts, I managed to get through this. A science fiction book that takes place in the South, which explains the amount of Early Times consumed. Everyone gets it here - liberals, conservatives, hippies, extremists, cults, and those who feel that society just needs more freedom - lots of issues from today are dealt with in this 1971 novel. Also, find out what happens when a militant group suddenly comes into a lot of money. (Hint: golf.) Yes, ...more
Bryan Kibbe
Apr 02, 2014 Bryan Kibbe rated it really liked it
There is no good introduction to the dystopian world of Paradise and the peculiar madness of Dr. Tom More; it's just something you will have to experience for yourself. To be sure, it's a wild ride, but one worth holding on to. For any philosophers and theologians out there (perhaps academics in general) you are sure to get a distinct pleasure from Percy's references to mind/body dualism, denominational identity, and the nature of academic research. Although the book has the arc of a story, it i ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
My second attempt at Walker Percy. I liked this much more than The Moviegoer. For one thing, it's much funnier. (If I have to read about a middle aged guy's existential crisis, some humor makes it much easier to bear. And Percy really has some great lines here. "I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all. Generally I do as I please." How can you not love that? And there's many more quotable lines ...more
May 02, 2009 Bill rated it really liked it
You can have no idea what a book is trying to say and still like it.
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Walker Percy (1916–1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a US senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction t ...more
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“Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?” 115 likes
“Jews wait for the Lord, Protestants sing hymns to him, Catholics say mass and eat him.” 26 likes
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