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The Ruins of California

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  521 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 2nd 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 2006)
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Jun 20, 2011 rated it liked it
i have mixed feelings about this book, probably because i had some serious expectations going into it.

i mean, it's california, the protagonist is almost precisely my age, and grows up on my turf. admittedly, "my turf" is rather large--being almost all of california--and "my age" does not mean "my socioeconomic strata" or "my milieu" or even "my head space." but somehow i expected to identify more closely with the main character.

but apparently her california wasn't exactly my california. close, s
Ange H
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book on the sale rack in the library with the word "discard" written across the title page in black sharpie.

The Ruins are an unconventional family in California in the 1970's. This would seem to be a rich and rewarding source of material, but it wasn't really very interesting. The many characters in the story - including the main one, teenaged Inez - are sketchily drawn, and there is really no plot to speak of. I think a book should have a plot, call me old fashioned. It had some i
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Being of that vintage myself, I'm particularly drawn to stories about growing up during the 1970's, and in The Ruins of California, Martha Sherrill tells a fascinating - and as it turns out, highly autobiographical - one, having found that her proposed memoir about her father rang truer as a novel.

The title is a play on words, telling the story of the Ruin family during the years following the dislocating events of the 1960's when much of society itself seemed to be in ruins, and California's re
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
I found this book in the City Lights bookstore in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. It had an employee write up saying that it was a great read for someone on vacation in the area - perfect for me. This is a coming of age story of a girl in the 1970's. Her mother lives in southern California and her father lives on Telegraph Hill in San Fran. Inez Ruin was someone I could easily relate to - we grew up in the same area although on different coasts but the traumas of the teen years ar ...more
Judy Mann
Aug 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book absolutely gave me the creeps. It's as if a sleepwalker is telling you this nothing special story.No ups, No downs , No nothing.
It's so flat it's creepy. Like who's actually ALIVE in this book? They're all in some lifeless trance-especially this Inez who's talking in this monotone right thru the story.I kept waiting for some huge climax- some fierce spark to set it all straight. But it just don't happen.
No I do not recommend it. At all. JM
Donna Belcinski
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't want it to end

Engrossing story; the prose is direct, uncluttered, and at times brilliantly insightful. Perfectly captures how it felt to grow up in the 1970s, even if you didn't live in California and learn to smoke pot with your father.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fun book. California in the 70's. A young girl grows up. Thanks ladies of the YDEHTGD Book Club
Erin Matzanias
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book - I've actually read it twice!
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
I just can't get into it. Okay, that's not true. I got into it, and then the author did some squirrely things with her story that disinclined me to finish the book. I tried to keep trudging through, but it turns out it was a complete turn off.

What did me in was this: Inez's mother's family seems to exist solely to talk about the Ruins. Inez, apparently, has no relationship with her "Abuelita" except a sense of not-good-enoughness because her grandmother was so [woodenly] stoic and hardworking. H
Alia S
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
When Whitman was stoned, he retreated, went inside himself. He grew silent and seemed almost sullen. Where had he gone? And when would he return? I hated how much he seemed to desire that separation from the world, and distance from me. I was lonely suddenly, even more than if I'd been walking in the woods by myself.

(That’s how I feel, stoners. Come ba-aaack.)

First of all, the title: ugh, why. A pun is rarely good enough to carry a novel, a pun on a name is especially arbitrary, and Sherrill’s e

Mar 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who knew CA in the seventies
Shelves: fiction
I'm not sure how I came about owning this book; it's not the sort I'd generally pick up. It must have been on sale somewhere; that's the only thing I can think. Since it's been gathering dust on my shelf for a while, and sitting dormant on my goodreads list, I figured it was time that I gave it a chance.

I braved through it, but I wasn't impressed. The main character, Inez, a girl from a split home with her boho father in the N. coast of California, and her suburban mother in the S. coast, was no
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I picked this up on recent visit to San Francisco at City Lights bookstore. I recommend visiting the bookstore because of its collection, history, and neighborhood (near Chinatown), but I’m not enthused about Sherrill’s book.

The staff at City Lights bookstore recommended it for people wanting to know about San Francisco in the 1970s. While it was flavored with descriptions of the neighborhoods my wife and I visited, there was little about the culture and feel of the city.

The story is a cliché s
Jul 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Inez Ruin is the protaganist of this book set in 1970's California, her parents are divorced. Her father lives a bohemian, playboy life in North Beach while her mother, a former flamenco dancer, lives a square, suburban life in Van Dale. Inez travels between southern California and northern California and balances between the two disparate lifestyles of her parents. Throw into the mix an intriguing half brother who's mother is British and lives in a commune, and a proper, cotillion advocating Gr ...more
Janet Gardner
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot. I came very close to loving this book—the story and narrator were compelling and the writing really fine—but toward the end it started to disappoint me a little. It follows the young narrator, Inez Ruin, from the age of eight to about twenty, as she shuttles back and forth between her staid, suburban, Southern California mother and her aloof, bohemian, judgmental Northern California father. She suffers the usual array of adolescent angst (though somewhat softened by priv ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my sisters, maybe Mike
Recommended to Betsy by: City Lights Bookstore
Thank you City Lights! I discovered this girl-coming-of-age-in-1960s-to-1980s-California novel among the staff recommendations while visiting my favorite San Francisco bookstore and it didn't disappoint. It was particularly fun to read because the main character,Inez Ruin, was born around the same year as I was (1959) and even though she grew up in California (vs. my Michigan), the many surface details of her world were instantly familiar, from her pink plastic Samsonite suitcase to the Pssst sp ...more
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Like many other reviewers, I picked up this book at City Lights. As a visitor to San Francisco, I was looking for something that would give me the feel and a little history of the city; the employee review promised that this book would do just that. I cannot account for its accuracy of San Francisco in the 70s, but being able to identify places after having just visited them made this an interesting read.

While the plot was lackluster, I always enjoy coming-of-age stories and this book was no ex
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is not what I expected. The plot is stagnant, the characters are poorly described and the main character is confusing and hard to grasp. I keep waiting for excitement, but I am disappointed page by page. If you want to read this book go ahead, but it will be a waste of time if you're looking for drama and excitement.
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of coming-of-age novels
ETA: The cover of this book is amazing (I just stared at it for like a minute, completely entranced) and it's done by Rodrigo Corral, my #3 in book cover design. It's probably what made me pick up the book in the bargain bin at Borders.

This reminds me of Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, not because they are really anything alike but because of the way she and Sherrill handle the coming-of-age of a young girl. Coincidentally, I also read Prep at the start of a new year (2006) and reading this gave me a
May 04, 2010 rated it liked it
As with many of the readers below, I picked up this book at City Lights on a recent trip to San Francisco. I am not acutely familiar with California geography or what the culture was like there during the 1970's, but I still found this book to be a really pleasant departure from a lot of other things I've read lately.

Martha Sherrill has crafted a really interesting familial story surrounding the Ruin family. While I was surprised to find that a lot of the action of this book occurs in descripti
Feb 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
I have been picking my way through this book for so long, I wonder why I bother to continue. Its not a bad story about nice people. Granted I expected to relate more to the characters than I do. They are west coast and ric, especially compared to my humble Missouri upbringing. I keep asking myself what is redeemable in these libetines? Is pleasure and prestige enough of a fondation for a happy existence. I don't know. Well, that is not true, I do know. For my whole life I have always known it wa ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the images of both Northern and Southern CA in the 70's and 80's as told through the eyes of Inez, a young girl growing up between her mother who lives near Burbank and her father who lives in the Bay Area. I definitely wanted more from her mother's side for some reason, the novel focused on her interactions with her handsome, playboy, liberal father and her half brother, both of whom were interesting, but seemed to skip over her mother's character although she seemed to have her own i ...more
Mar 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I found this at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. Once again, the cover caught my eye but I was also intrigued by the description: a story about California in the 1970s. I lived in CA in the early 70s so I thought I would take a chance. Overall, it was an enjoyable read (and somewhat successful in capturing the feeling one has in CA). The locales include North Beach, the L.A. area, Laguna Beach, and Hawaii. Although I'm not fond of books that have a journal-like format, where almost everyt ...more
Lori Cipro
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Such a well written and excellent story. I loved this book and these characters.
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 t
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is decent - I bought it for a quarter from a 'withdrawn books' sale at the library. It took awhile for me to see any type of plot developing and I'm still not sure a very deep one ever did develope.

It was more like one of those books that focus on character development as the basis of any sort of plot - it followed the narrator of the book, Inez Ruin, as she grew from a girl in California (shuttled between her mother's home and her father's) to a teenager during the 1970s.

You meet some
Tricia Sutton
Oct 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
I bought this book on its exciting cover alone. The book inside was rather bland and had no story to speak of. My genre of choice is usually this very kind of book: coming-of-age, character-driven but I struggled with it. Inez comes of age in two different households but the story question and conflict were still absent halfway through the book so I stopped reading. If it were a memoir, I would have been more forgiving of its lack of plot, but even at that it would have still bored me.

I must say
Christine Michelle
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book solely because I adore the 1970s. Sherrill's writing immediately drew me in. The woman can write, that's for sure. This wasn't a fast read for me. I took my time reading it because that's the way this type of book deserves to be read. I love that it's a memoir overloaded with fiction because it leaves me wondering what was true and what wasn't true in the best way possible. I loved how descriptive the author was and how she was capable of making mundane life sound interesting. ...more
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all Californias
Shelves: favorites
I cannot say enough good things about this book. The author's use of 1970s Southern California moves beyond a backdrop and becomes a secondary and necessary character for understanding the dynamics of the people. This book may have spoken more to me as a suddenly displaced California girl in the deep South. As I read this book I saw glimmers of my San Diego born and breed family. This novel seems to tap into what Southern authors have known for years: you are your place. But, the golden coast ma ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great story about life in 70's California. Between the main characters connection to various family members, she's exposed to a broad array of "only in California" life experiences. San Francisco, L.A. suburbs, Orange County, mormons, wealthy academics, surfers, flamenco dancers, old Eastern money, mixed ethnic backgrounds, etc. The story of the family is good, but I enjoyed it for the well-written glimpse into a fascinating decade, known for it's cultural awaking, in an area at the awakening' ...more
Lynne Lambdin
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought the book was a good insight into a girl in the world growing up and working with what life has given her. The most interesting thing for me was how the book focused on the father-daughter relationship, mom was barely there. The author did a wonderful job makig the father as charismatic as he was claimed to be. I found myself jealous of Inez and Paul relationship. This is a good book to sit on the beach and read. Bring you down memory lane yourself as she experiences frowing up.
Caroline Bell
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was really good. It boils down to a story about a father and daughter, their relationship, albeit nontraditional, and the history of the family that surrounds them. The setting in California and then Hawaii is engrossing, and the secondary characters are excellent (brother, grandma, best friend). At times, it may not have been as action-packed as some readers would prefer, but it was warm and lingering and real. Great book.
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