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Author/Reader Discussions > THE RUINS OF US Author/Reader Discussion

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
HI everyone, and Happy New Year!!!

It wouldn't feel right if we didn't start off the new year with a book giveaway, you know?

This month, we are giving away 10 copies of Keija Parssinen's The Ruins of Us: A Novel. US and CANADIAN residents only for this one....

Here's the link, comment to win! http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.c...

Keija will be joining us from Feb 15th - 29th to discuss the novel with us.

message 2: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
Winners have been announced, were you one of them???


message 3: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
The discussion will begin on February 15th and run through the end of the month. So plenty of time to read it and prepare!!!

message 4: by Beverly (new)

Beverly I have just finished this book. It grabbed me from the first chapter until the end.
I cannot wait to discuss!

message 5: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
Wow, way to go Beverly!!

message 6: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (RosannaBell) | 118 comments I just got the book yesterday and so far it's proving to be a interesting read. I can't wait to start discussing it.

message 7: by Albert (new)

Albert | 16 comments I received a copy of this book recently and have posted a review, fell free to check it out. I gave it four stars and have to say it is more than what the book jacket teases you about. A very well written family drama for our times. The Ruins of Us A Novel by Keija Parssinen

message 8: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
Are you guys ready? Keija joins us tomorrow for the book discussion kick off!

Got any words of welcome or question for her to start with?

message 9: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (IandSsmom) | 30 comments 1/2 way through the book so gotta finish up! Excited to discuss it!

message 10: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Feb 15, 2012 04:01AM) (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
Good morning TNBBCer's!

You may have noticed that I cleaned up some of the posts that were in here. Just a little housekeeping (removing the posts that mentioned who was waiting on their copies really) in anticipation of Keija's visit :)

Be sure to let us know where you currently are with the book, and let the discussion begin!

So welcome Keija!

It's such a pleasure to have you hanging out with us these over these next two weeks. I have been hearing good things from our giveaway winners regarding the book so far.

May I start things off by asking you how long the book took you to write, and where the inspiration came from?

message 11: by Keija (new)

Keija Hi Lori, and lovely readers! Thanks for having me at TNBBC! This is exciting :)

The book took me five years to write. My father had returned to Saudi Arabia to work in 2003, one of the most violent years in contemporary Saudi history, and he was living in an especially violent region. I started writing the book in part out of fear for his safety. I thought if I could write him into a story, I could protect him, because I would control his fate. Of course, fiction is a weak bodyguard, but for 25-year-old me, it helped me feel empowered in a situation where I was powerless. Because he was back working in the Kingdom, I often found my thoughts traveling back to my childhood there, too. Rosalie's nostalgia for her childhood home is rooted in my own. Finally, I was living and working in New York City at the time, and 9/11 weighed heavily on everyone's minds. Even the morning commute on the subway became fraught with fear and paranoia. I often considered Saudi Arabia's role in the tragedy and wanted a better understanding of Saudi's role in extremist activity. Researching the book helped me gain a better grasp of that.

message 12: by Shannon (last edited Feb 15, 2012 06:09AM) (new)

Shannon (IandSsmom) | 30 comments Like I said above I'm only 1/2 way through (was hoping to get more read last night but had a sick 4 y/o!boo!) What has been going through my head since we found out is- Do you think Rosalie would have had a different reaction to the second wife situation if she had been confronted with it when he first fell in love with Isra? She makes it seem like there is no way to leave so wouldn't it be the same if she had known from the beginning. Thank you for doing this with us it is fun to get the author's prespective!!

message 13: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod

5 years and a lot of history and fear and tragedy later, your book was born! How did it feel to have signed it with Harpers?

message 14: by Lynne (new)

Lynne (lbrosch) | 2 comments I also have gotten to about halfway in the book. I have been so impressed with the quality and maturity in Keija's writing. This does not read like a first time novelist's work. The characters came to life in depth in the first chapters. I especially enjoy learning about modern day Saudi life. Keija, what has been your writing background up to this point and do you plan to keep writing novels?

message 15: by Keija (new)

Keija Great questions! Shannon, I think Rosalie would have felt less betrayed if he had said from the beginning, "I've fallen in love with someone else, let's get a divorce." By not telling Rosalie about Isra for two years while carrying on as if everything was the same, Abdullah reveals his cowardice and his desire to "have his cake and eat it too." Either way, though, Rosalie is stuck between a rock and a hard place: if she stays, she dooms herself to unhappiness and discontent. If she leaves, she removes herself from her children's everyday life permanently.

Lori--it was wonderful to sell the book, especially to a grand old publishing house like HarperCollins! My husband and I definitely drank some Champagne that night :)

Lynne: Thank you so much for your kind words. I was an English major in college and wrote poetry for many years before starting fiction. THE RUINS OF US was my first attempt at fiction, and I've since written a few short stories, though not many--I prefer the longer form! I took several poetry and fiction workshops while living in New York, and then I started graduate school at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where I did the bulk of the writing on RUINS. All my life, I've been a relentless reader, a habit I credit for my ability to put sentences together properly :)

message 16: by Albert (new)

Albert | 16 comments I finished reading The Ruins Of Us, lucky enough to have received one of the giveaway copies and really enjoyed the story. The writing was detailed and you could really get a sense of the emotional hurricane that was ripping the family apart. What surprised me was that it was not just a story of Rosalie but of the entire family and that we got a strong sense of what drove each individual. This is what made the book so good to me. I posted a review in Goodreads as well as on Amazon. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to the next.

message 17: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod
Albert, while we have Keija here with us, are there any questions you want to ask her... whether it's about the story itself, or what went into the making of the story?

message 18: by Albert (new)

Albert | 16 comments My question, what puzzled me most, was the character of Isra. She seemed to be a strong somewhat independent woman herself, how could she accept the station of second wife?

message 19: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (IandSsmom) | 30 comments Now with the answer I'm wondering would divorce have been an easy option or would Abdullah more have just proposed bringing a new wife into the situation. Because wouldn't divorce from her husband have taken her children out of her life also. And I'm looking forward to the answer for Albert's question!!

message 20: by Keija (new)

Keija Albert, thanks for your lovely reviews! I appreciate them. To your question, I can only say: the heart wants what it wants! I think logic goes right out the window where true love is involved, and remember that Abdullah is handsome, rich, charming, and also very much in love with her. I think Isra agrees to her unorthodox lifestyle because, plain and simple, she's in love with him :)

By the Koran, the first wife has a right to request a divorce from her husband if he takes a second wife, so Rosalie could have (and can!) decide to request a divorce. But it is still a very difficult situation, as Abdullah would no doubt insist on keeping the children and raising them Saudi.

message 21: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Joyce | 3 comments Hi Keija,
i expect to get your book in the post tomorrow , after reading all of the above i am really excited about opening it up and delving straight into it .. I will be able to join in on this conversation soon

message 22: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 8804 comments Mod

Did you tour for the book? What was that experience like?

message 23: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda | 22 comments I am so fascinated by your book.I love to readabout different culturesrosaliedealing with her husband's Betrayal and dealing with her son Faisal. .I am still reading your wonderful bookandcan,t wait to pick it up again

message 24: by Keija (new)

Keija Mandy, I look forward to hearing your thoughts! And Rhonda, thanks so much for sharing your enthusiasm :) So glad you're enjoying the book.

Lori, I have been on a tour for the book over the last month. My publicist gave me great advice--he said we should focus on cities where I have family and friends and can drum up good support for the book. So I visited Austin (where I grew up) and Houston (where a lot of high school friends are), Brooklyn (where I lived for several years), and San Francisco (where my sister lives). I'm also scheduled to read in St. Louis (I live in Missouri), and then I'll travel to Denver in early April (lots of friends from Saudi there).

Touring has been absolutely wonderful! I'm amazed by the friends, former teammates, former teachers, and family members who come out of the woodwork to support me and the book! It's been incredibly humbling and deeply moving. I've come close to tears a few times, realizing how much people want to see me succeed. I've loved reconnecting with people I haven't seen in years--especially my old friends from Saudi! I just saw a group of them whom I haven't seen since I left in 1992! But we picked up as naturally as can be and had so much to talk about. Touring has made me feel the power of my extended community, and it has inspired in me a sincere sense of gratitude.

message 25: by Keija (new)

Keija And now I have a question for the group: was Abdullah at all sympathetic to you? What was your response to his character?

He has divided many of my readers. I'm eager to hear your thoughts!

message 26: by Ajit (new)

Ajit | 2 comments Hi Keija,

I am still reading the book, and so far it has been a really amazing and interestinjg read. Abdullah mentions one of the reasons for getting a second wife, as Rosalie becoming like a Saudi wife. Can you tell me if this was just one of the excuses he made to himself or did he really feel that way. I think if a person is brought from US to saudi Arbaia, places which have completely different cultures, it is harsh , even wwromng to expect a perosn to not chnqage and adopt the culture of the new place. Would really like to hear your thoughts on this.

message 27: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (IandSsmom) | 30 comments I'm not feeling alot of sympathy for Abdullah at this point in the book. I feel like even though he is portrayed as rich and successful in his business life, in his personal life he is very weak and takes the road of least resistance. I feel like he would of happily gone on living a double life and doesn't feel bad at all that he had people lying for him. I'm not seeing the allure that got him 2 wives!!

Cynthia ☮ ❤ ❀  | 10 comments I am still in the process of reading the book. I have to say I am enjoying it. I enjoy books that allow me to glimpse into a world that I am not a part of...The 19th Wife, for example. I am fascinated by cultures that use religion to "bless" polygamy. I don't have sympathy in my own culture for "adultery" and am intrigued that under the guise of "religion/culture" people find it acceptable. The question was asked about having sympathy for Abdullah-no not in the least.

message 29: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Wasik I am not completely finished with the book so things may turn out differently, however, I must say, while I do not feel "sympathy" for Abdullah, I am also finding it difficult to feel sympathy for Roslie. I realize it makes me sound quite cold but, she did marry into a culture that promotes that type of behavior. Women are not held in high regard. Is she more upset that he has taken anothr wife or that he hide that fact from her? She had to expect it aft some level, right? I am surprised it took so long to I said, I am still reading the book but so far, I really like it!!

message 30: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (RosannaBell) | 118 comments Hi Everyone,
I really enjoyed reading this book. It flows amazingly well from one character to the next, from English into Arabic, etc. I really liked how Keija subtly introduced basic Arabic phrases into the text; the meanings of the words were implied through context and seemed completely natural. I liked the duality of the language which shows the duality of the characters lives.

I did find Abdullah to be the least sympathetic character in the book. All the other characters seem to have pretty clear motives but I was unsure as to why Abdullah chose to take a second wife. It’s obvious he fell in love with her, but at some point he had to make the choice to betray his first love and it doesn’t seem clear to Rosalie that there was ever a problem in their relationship until Isra came along. It seems he didn’t try to salvage his relationship with his first wife before moving onto another. I think if his wife had been Saudi, I would have been more sympathetic because it would have been a part of both their cultures, but he knows she is American and would disapprove of his actions—hence the need for keeping his marriage to Isra a secret. Also if he had brought up the idea with Rosalie and discussed it with her, it would show he had courage and respected her enough to discuss it with her. I did find this quote particularly interesting though, “Wasn’t marriage the ultimate expression of that vaunted emotion, that truest love? And if one should be lucky enough to feel love twice in a lifetime, well, why not?”. What do you guys think of this quote? Do you guys believe people could ever be truly happy in a polygamous relationship or do you think happiness can only occur with someone remaining in the dark? If you fall in love with someone new and you were in love with someone before, is it not a betrayal of love to turn your back on the new love and honor the old one and vice versa? These are questions I’m just throwing out there. Personally I don’t think polygamy could ever really work, I think people are too jealous and someone would always be hurt by it. In the context of the book, I think Abdullah was using this idea as a justification to appease his guilty conscious, but by taking Isra as a second wife he destroys his relationship and more importantly his trust with Rosalie. I think he thought it was easier to start a new marriage than to try and fix his first one.

message 31: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (RosannaBell) | 118 comments This question is for everyone: what do you think of Rosalie’s decision to marry Abdullah and move to Saudi Arabia (before his affair), a land known for its oppression of women? Do you think for the sake of love she should give up basic human rights or do you think some sacrifices are not worth making, even for love?

message 32: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (RosannaBell) | 118 comments Keija, what was your experience in Saudi Arabia growing up? Were you more or less in a bubble of American culture in Saudi Arabia? Did you interact and befriend the local children or did they treat you as an outcaste? How did it differ from your more recent visit as an adult? After 9/11 tensions have been high with the Saudi people not wanting an American presence in Saudi Arabia, were you treated with respect or was there tension during your visit? Do you think it is right of American parents to raise their children in a country where they can never truly belong or even have the choice of visiting again, if they so desired?

message 33: by Keija (new)

Keija Rosanna, thanks for your questions about my upbringing in Saudi. I lived on a compound, separate from much of Saudi culture, though I did go to school with many children from around the Arab/Muslim world. My parents had many Saudi friends who lived outside the compound, and we would visit their homes regularly. I always enjoyed playing with their kids and never felt any tension. On my return trip, I felt the political anxiety more greatly--places that had not been heavily guarded and barricaded before now were, thanks to acts of terrorism on Saudi soil. I also got into a few conversations in which friends were angry about how difficult the United States made it for them, as Saudis, to visit. They were upset at what they perceived as discrimination, since they were law-abiding citizens. On a personal level, I was welcomed into every home and my hosts were incredibly generous and kind to me. Your last question about whether it's right for parents to raise their children in a place they can never truly belong is a fascinating one. Truthfully, I had a fairytale childhood in Saudi Arabia, met many amazing people from around the world, and gained an appreciation for a society that is often misunderstood or maligned. I have always been grateful to my parents for giving me that unique opportunity :)

message 34: by Adrienna (new)

Adrienna (AdriennaTurner) Yes, I started reading the back of the book, about the author page, to get a sense of why you wrote this novel. I wondered what it was like to be a "third-generation expatiate". As an author, forgive my unfamiliarity with such an award, but I wanted to know more about "MicheneCorpernicus" award. You do share about country not your own on the next page--how your mother, and her parents also lived in Saudi Arabia. I also wondered what it felt like to belong to two countries even though you have American citizenship.

message 35: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda | 22 comments no ihave no sympathy for Abdullah my heart went out to Rosalie in the jewelry store when she realised he was cheatng .

message 36: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda | 22 comments Just finished .The horrible scene between Rosalie Dan and Faisel will stick in my mind.Thanks for this book an inside look at another culture and at the same time proof that we are all the same.The extremes people will go to in the name of religion always shocks me.Can`t wait to read your next book.

message 37: by Keija (new)

Keija Good morning, all! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the various scenes that affected you. Always interesting to hear. Adrienna, a Michener-Copernicus award is given to a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop who has completed a manuscript (either short stories or a novel). Graduates apply each year for the award money, which can basically support you in your writing for a year. I won it in 2009, the year I graduated from the program.

Among readers, there seems to be some confusion about what Rosalie decides to do at the end of the book. What do you think she decided?

And Rhonda, yes, violence in the name of religion seems the ultimate hypocrisy, whether it's someone blowing up an abortion clinic or taking hostages in the name of their God. Thanks for that insight.

message 38: by Dream 4 More (new)

Dream 4 More Reviews (dream4more) I just started reading the book, and will review other questions/comments from both readers and author.

One of my concerns, and hope to delve into the novel even more to see if it is explained. I just wondered why Rosalie would marry Abullah never getting the indication based on his religious views, or even personal upbringing that he would not marry a second wife. In some cultures like this, they marry up to four wives sometimes. I wonder did she even ask, speak of it, or discuss before marriage.

I did like how the author emphasized that she still had sexual needs regardless of the second wife. I also looked at Lamees' character who admitted that there are "cheating affairs" amongst both sexes in such marriages. This is something I didn't know or assumed, always thought the wives were faithful and accepted this arrangement of marriage. I will read further to see how things intertwine.

message 39: by Dream 4 More (new)

Dream 4 More Reviews (dream4more) Rosanna wrote: "Hi Everyone,
I really enjoyed reading this book. It flows amazingly well from one character to the next, from English into Arabic, etc. I really liked how Keija subtly introduced basic Arabic phr..."

Yes she did weave the language inside the novel; however, since I am not familiar with Arabic language, I had to assume some of the wording...and as a author/reader/researcher, I wanted to know the actual meaning and not assume. I know some novels will include glossary of terms in the back of the book to help the reader see it. I read another book several months ago with Nigerian dialect, and had to ask my future mate of these terms and some I discovered were just the characters names or status...and laughed. I read another book of German dialect, and the words were available in the back of the book--so helpful. Yet, it is not needed since most authors do not consider or offer to their readers. I read Alice Walker when I was a young 12 year old and was able to figure out most of the Spanish dialect used because of my heritage...and little help from my Spanish friends at the time.

message 40: by Dream 4 More (new)

Dream 4 More Reviews (dream4more) Message #30 by Rosanna, I agree, why did he do it secretly since it was his given culture and religious views to marry a second wife. Then, wait nearly 20 years later to marry his second wife? Most do it within a short period of time after the first wife if this is their so-called duty as a husband in this culture.

message 41: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (RosannaBell) | 118 comments I think Rosalie tried to make amends with Abdullah “because she understood that his affections were turning more and more back toward her, and this was almost enough. Almost” (319). However, I think in the end it wasn’t enough. The last scene we have with Abdullah is him embracing his new born child; he’s beginning a new stage in his life, having a fresh start. I think Rosalie craves for a fresh start to. We are left with her standing in her bedroom, looking at an old map of the world, contemplating where to go. She rejects Texas, deciding “a new place is what she is after” (320). I don’t think the place matters, just the new experience and cleansing nature of her trip. I don’t think she even knows the length of her trip or whether it will be permanent. I think her children remain her constant; she knows that they will visit and love her despite her geographic location.

Alright Keija, I know an author never wants to disclose all their secrets, but am I headed in the right direction? :)

message 42: by Melinda (new)

Melinda (MelindaHigg) I finished yesterday. What a heart wrenching book! I kept hoping that Rosalie would fing a smattering of happiness and man did it get worse before there was any hope and then it ended!! I needed another chapter. While there was a glimpse of hope at the end, I feel like Rosalie kept saying she would leave or divorce but she could never bring herself to do it. Maybe the end was more of the same? I enjoyed the book and it was definitely a page turner. Thanks for allowing me to live in each of these characters in an amazing part of the world without leaving my cozy house!

message 43: by Adrienna (last edited Feb 19, 2012 02:39PM) (new)

Adrienna (AdriennaTurner) Yes, I read early on in the reading that she didn't want to go back to Texas, middle-aged woman with no real work experience. "middle-aged college drop-out" (page 16). I am halfway now since I got other reads to do this week alone and one of the book discussion reads is 925 pages only 110 pages in.

message 44: by Adrienna (new)

Adrienna (AdriennaTurner) Now that I am done, I agree that the ending was abrupt and another 1-3 chapters would have given more closure for me. I don't recall reading what Isra gave birth to (the last 3 pages) and that Rosa was going to Sugar Land TX; yet wasn't secure in the reading that they will get a divorce, separation, or just go to TX since her son was escorted back to the States...he was blessed to get away with such a crime like that and only go abroad...that disturbed me quite a bit in the ending. Seems like the teacher didn't get justice either, somewhat left unclear for me too (what Fasalie and his friend risked everything for in the first place).

message 45: by Adrienna (new)

Adrienna (AdriennaTurner) Keija wrote: "And now I have a question for the group: was Abdullah at all sympathetic to you? What was your response to his character?

He has divided many of my readers. I'm eager to hear your thoughts!"

I had to read and digest more into the novel itself to see if his sympathy was worthy or just. However, oddly, I am nonchalant in this answer. In general sense, he should not get sympathy but I also didn't have much sympathy for some reason for Rosalie. I can understand her position and where she stood firmly with her concerns about her children and divorce as an issue; she also was rather familiar with their customs and beliefs it appeared since she knew the male companion or his counterparts (other male family members) would take the children if she took the divorce. It seems like things worked out as she planned due to Fasalie's ignorance and abrupt behavior on social matters. I would answer neutral if I was doing a survey questionnaire.

message 46: by Adrienna (last edited Feb 20, 2012 10:20AM) (new)

Adrienna (AdriennaTurner) Keija wrote: "Good morning, all! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the various scenes that affected you. Always interesting to hear. Adrienna, a Michener-Copernicus award is given to a graduate of the Iowa ..."

Do you plan to write a sequel? You asked what do we think her plans will be....when the book didn't give us much to go the end. I will have to think about this some more to come to a conclusion. I think it would be wise to divorce him, seems like her kids will be able to be with her in the USA due to Fasalie's unjustified mistake (if that is the best way to describe his behavior towards the end of the book). I am quite sure she should be able to get some type of settlement...but it doesn't seem like money so much an issue for her but the family (her kids).

Another reason for divorce: her husband is no longer meeting his manly duties in the bedroom and she no longer wants him there either when he tried. Besides love, no sex, where would this marriage go?

message 47: by Keija (new)

Keija Hey all! Rosanna, you nailed it as far as the ending goes :) Thanks for your thoughtful read of the book!

No, no plans for a sequel. I feel like Rosalie leaving him but continuing to be involved with her children is the right ending for the book, and I think it was pretty clear that she was leaving: "A new place is what she is after."

When you divorce in Saudi Arabia, you are not owed a financial settlement, actually. So any money she might receive from Abdullah would have to come from his goodwill toward her after their many years together.

When I read, I enjoy books that don't shut down story lines neatly and methodically at the end (because life never works that way!), so that's how I write my fiction :)

Thanks all!

message 48: by Keija (new)

Keija Oh, and just to answer Dream 4 More's comment: Muslim men can take multiple wives if they wish, but there is no cultural imperative to do so, especially in this day and age. And you'd be surprised at how and when men decide to take second and third and fourth wives! As you can imagine, there's a lot of rationalizing involved, and not a lot of reason :) Some men keep their wives secret for decades before the earlier wives make the discovery! This is done purely for convenience' sake (as Abdullah discusses--he takes the path of least resistance because despite his power, he is fairly passive in his personal dealings and hates arguments :)

message 49: by Melinda (new)

Melinda (MelindaHigg) I didn't mean that I wanted the ending wrapped up with a neat bow because, like you said, life isn't like that. I wanted another chapter to trust that she REALLY was going but it is entirely possible that I didn't read carefully enough. Your book was so engaging that I flew though to see what was next. My favorite character was actually Dan. I thought his character was very well thought out and I enjoyed his flaws. I found Abdullah's character not very sympathetic. He was weak and mean spirited which made it a little tough to understand why both Rosalie and Dan agreed that he was a good man. I was pleased at the development of Faisal's character as well. I was entirely sympathetic for his character as opposed to that of his father. Anyway...thank you again for the good read and I am anticipating your next book -whatever subject you take on!

message 50: by Adrienna (new)

Adrienna (AdriennaTurner) I second that request Melinda. Life isn't perfect or mended in a bow...there was not enough closure for me either. The novel, I felt, bloomed or broken open and unleashed so many factors of the son's anger; father's new child on the way; Rosalie and Dan coming together to name a few...and this happened about 100 pages before the ending of the book...then huh? I know some authors will end abruptly in plans for a series, or sequel to follow thereafter in future. Others end like that, but readers are left like what? I got engaged towards the end...the rest, I breezed through (forgive my honesty). Thank you for allowing me to read the novel though as a whole.

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