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The Ruins of Us

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,509 ratings  ·  261 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)

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Julia Fierro
Feb 02, 2012 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 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 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
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Dec 06, 2011 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
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Twentyseven years after she left Texas behind to marry the love of her life and follow him to his home in Saudi Arabia, Rosalie finds out that her husband has taken a second wife, much to the consternation of everyone around him and her own anger and sorrow. While she struggles with the implications of this revelation, feeling like what she thought of as her perfect marriage and family are slowly disintegrating before her eyes, the couple's two teenaged children are pulled into opposite directio ...more
Jun 10, 2012 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
What would you do if you found out that your husband of more than 25 years, the father of your two teen-aged children and the man for whom you gave up your family (shabby as they might have been) and your country, had a new woman? Get angry, call a lawyer, grab the kids and run for the hills? Any of those would be completely justifiable reactions but things are a little different for Rosalie. Her husband Abdullah is a wealthy man, well connected with a powerful family and – drum roll for the pun ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, fiction
This book is really about a family going in all different directions from each other. Abdullah has entered a new marriage with his second wife. His first wife (who he is still married to), American-born Rosalie, finds out on accident that he has married another woman. Meanwhile, Rosalie and Abdullah's son, Faisal, is moving towards extremism with a radical shiekh while their daughter, Mariam, is rebelling in her own way. No member of this family seems to know what is going on with the other. The ...more
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
Jean Blackwood
Jun 23, 2013 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 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 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 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!!
Kathryn in FL
Keija Parssinen delivers an insightful view into the life of an American woman, Rosalee, who meets a college student, who is a Saudi Arabian. After a torrid affair (which was not equivalent, to less descriptive romance novels bodice ripping), they do marry and move to Saudi Arabian, so he can work in his father's empire. This book focuses on the Saudi culture in a gentle light overall. It is a story of family relationships within the Kingdom and the impact of this outsider's experiences. Further ...more
Renita D'Silva
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Beautifully written
Zainab Bint Younus
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Compelling, rich, deeply emotional and without ever falling into the lazy tropes and stereotypes that are so easy to latch onto whenever Saudi Arabia comes into play - this book is incredible.
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 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 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
Mary Ann
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely novel. The plot is fairly simple and straightforward and arose from the author's own experience of her birth and early upbringing in Saudi Arabia of an American ex-pat family and their subsequent move to the U.S. which left her with memories of and a yearning for the desert country.

The characters are beautifully drawn and have an inner consistency and integrity. While I found many of them difficult to like, I could easily empathize with them all from the willful Rosalie, the wi
Lise Saffran
Oct 28, 2011 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 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
Nov 04, 2012 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 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 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.
Polly Summers
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathie Kuehl
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story of a marriage and a family near the breaking point. After living in Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years, American born Rosalie learns that her powerful and wealthy Saudi husband, Abdullah, has taken a second wife, Isra. Rosalie contemplates leaving Saudi Arabia and her husband. Rosalie and Abdullah are blindsided when they learn that their teenage son, Faisal, along with his best friend, have become involved with a controversial sheikh which puts Faisal in danger because the Saudi roy ...more
This is a story of an american woman who is full of the zest for life; who meets a man from Saudi Arabia while he is studying in the USA. They fall in love and he marries her and moves her to Saudi Arabia. It is the story of a family who has money and privilege. It is also a story of fitting in and trying to be accepted. The family has 2 children; a young girl and an older boy . The older boy becomes involved in political issues with a friend and develops a distaste for his mother. The husband t ...more
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“In the aftermath, their family was living under the same roof like warped puzzle pieces that once fit together.” 0 likes
“A man without family was nothing. He felt the pinch of the egg-sized cavity and scratched at his chest. He would have them back in the car in a day, maybe two. Then, they would go home and let the relief make them giddy and closer than they had been before. When they awoke tomorrow, they would talk and he would listen.” 0 likes
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