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Drowning Ruth

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  73,761 Ratings  ·  2,304 Reviews
Oprah Book Club® Selection, September 2000: For 19th-century novelists--from Jane Austen to George Eliot, Flaubert to Henry James--social constraint gave a delicious tension to their plots. Yet now our relaxed morals and social mobility have rendered many of the classics untenable. Why shouldn't Maisie know what she knows? It will all come out in family therapy anyway. The ...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Doubleday Books (first published 2000)
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Aug 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stupid Oprah. I quite liked this book, it annoys me to find out that it's an Oprah book. It makes me like it less by default. Why do authors LET her put her name on their books? It's a shame.

"But a sense that there might also exist some entirely different destination, one that he couldn’t yet see but which lay just beyond the obscuring undergrowth of long habit and expectations, troubled him and kept him from moving forward. He had no idea how to hack through the foliage, nor whether whatever he
May 23, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I swaer, with some of the books being written today I could write a book about mutant kung-fu hamsters and get it published. The story danced around the central question: "What Really Happened the Night Mathilda Died?" After a while I just didn't care. The whole lot of them could have fallen through the ice for all I cared. The characters were stupid to the nth degree and there seemed to be a running theme of "Co-dependency is great!" running through the whole thing. The "big twists" to the sto ...more
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Oprah
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Ansbro
Wishy-washy and predictable.
Mar 07, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one but Oprah
Horrible! Horrible! The only reason this gets a star is that we don't have minus stars. Not even reading this next to the shore could save this.

Confusing as you read to a fairly obvious conclusion. Second Oprah book while on vacation; she's having a bad season because they both were pretty bad. Did I mention this was horrible.
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Shelves: books-i-own
The last thing I do in the world is take advice from celebrities so when I discovered this was on Oprah’s book club list I almost didn’t pick it up. But the book kept calling out to me and I folded. Beautiful story. It reminded me a lot of “The Heretic’s Daughter”, by Kathleen Kent. Though completely different it had the same feel.

‘Drowning Ruth’ is a story of painful secrets, love for a child and a woman’s life sacrifice for this child. This is one of those stories that tugs at your heart and k
David Abrams
Oct 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drowning Ruth is one of those novels that gets readers so worked up, so lathered, so feverish that they run around pressing the book into the hands of friends and, perhaps, strangers on a plane, insisting with wide eyes and spittle-flecked lips, "Here. Read this."

"Well," the dumbfounded party responds, "what's it about?"

"I cannot tell you."

Exactly. Drowning Ruth is one of those books you want to tell everyone about, but can't. To reveal a little would be to spoil too much. There are so many myst
Jan 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in rural Wisconsin between the First and Second World Wars, this story of two sisters and their children growing up on the shores of a lake is full of secrets, guilt, misunderstandings and tragedy. There's an intensity about the plot that makes it quite difficult to bear at times - especially the ending when so much is at stake.

As a debut novel, it's quite remarkable and I wasn't surprised to hear that it was an Oprah's Book Club choice; but I think it has its weaknesses. In particular, the
Apr 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm having trouble putting together my thoughts on this book. The story was interesting and the mystery kept me engaged. I felt that some things were unanswered, and so I was left a bit unsatisfied. (i.e. I wanted to know more about Amanda and Joe's past, I felt confused about Amanda's "mental illness") I also felt that the transitioning from past to present wasn't always clear. The switching in and out of 1st and 3rd person was different and took some getting used to. The characters were intere ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stupid Oprah. Stupid predictable book. I feel like an asshole for even paying $0.10 at the library book sale for it.
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a few years ago and forgot everything. Now that I've reread it for bookgroup, I can see why I forgot. The characters bore me. They have no characteristics that surprise, delight, or inspire. The only reason I kept reading is to find out how Ruth drowned. Ruth turns out to be just as woosie as her Aunt Amanda. Her father is a woose too. The only one with any character (Mattie) is dead, so that should tell you something. And we know who Imogene is the first time she wants that blu ...more
Jan 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately the only drowning I was doing was in exhaustion. I never liked any Oprah recommendation,but I give every book an opportunity to impress me. However this book was so boring,it was extremely tedious,inconsistent and forgettable.

NOTHING about the content made a lasting impression.

I need to trust my instincts more.

Mar 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to smetchie by: Laura
Guess what? This book is about drowning. No really. The whole thing. I think it's some type of theme.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The excerpts from reviews on the back cover of books are often gushing and raise your expectations too much. Other books are so hyped, that if you read it long after it was published, you may have heard so many friends enthusing about it, that when you finally get to it, you can only be disappointed. Then there are books like this one. I had never heard of this book nor the author, never read any reviews, and had been putting off reading it for a few months, in spite of the rave reviews from res ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookgroup, fiction
Drowning Ruth was an Oprah book a few years ago, which just supports my opinion that Oprah doesn't actually read the books before they become part of her book club and go on to sell millions and millions.

I wasn't all that excited about this book when my book group voted on it in December, but I was pleasantly surprised with how compelling the beginning was. It started out as a mystery with very few clues, so I wanted to keep reading. But after a while what had happened and what was going to happ
(This review also appears on

Not quite the worst book I've ever read, but it comes close...

Being an Oprah book club recommendation I expected this to be pretty good- she's usually spot-on when it comes to books that are sharp, witty, insightful and thought-provoking... But not this time.

Sorry Oprah, but this was depressing (and this is coming from someone who enjoys `The Road' and other apocalyptic stories). I didn't exactly expect a happy tale from the title, but good grief I coul
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing! I think I drove my husband insane while reading this because after every page, I would put it down and exclaim, ""This book is crazy, babe!"" The author uses both first and third person to tell her story from multiple perspectives. Some of the negative reviews for this novel sited the use of both first and third person as their main reason for disliking the format of the story. I personally found it quite useful in the character development and that is where this novel truly excelled. T ...more
Leslie Callahan
Feb 15, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I CAN'T do it! I'm of the way into it and I keep waiting for "the gripping psychological thriller" to start but unless I force myself to pick it up and read it I don't. I keep telling myself the last 50 pages are going to be awesome and pull it all together.... But is it worth my time for the first 250 pages - nope! ...more
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Christina by: No oneee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I read this upon the recommendation of an old co-worker and figured, Hey! It's part of Oprah's book club and I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude,She's Come Undone, The Reader, White Oleander, and have MANY OTHER Oprah picks on my 'tbr' list... yet, I was so disappointed.

Drowning Ruth is a jumpy historical "mystery" novel centered around the mysterious death of young mother Mattie. Her sister, Amanda, is the main narrator of the story and coincidentally returns home from her duties as a WWI n
Kristina Hoerner
Jun 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly enough, I liked this book even though it was on a very depressing subject. I will admit, however, that the pacing was too slow for me. I had to cheat and read the end fairly early in the book just to keep myself going. Nearly all the plot twists are predictable but I thought the writing was good. I did not know if I should feel sorry for Amanda or incredibly angry at her selfishness.
Yuki Burton
Drowning Ruth is surprising. Historical fiction can be dry but this novel is alive with excitement and intrigue. My favorite part was the setting (early 1900's were so revolutionary), but there's also a lot of good character development and many plot twists to leave you guessing for a long time.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel tells the haunting story of two generations of a Wisconsin family brought together and torn apart by the lake adjacent to the family home. Focused on four women, sisters of two generations, the novel develops around the sisters' relationship with the lake, and the tragedy that ensues when it claims one of their lives. Much of the book is spent untangling the secrets which led to the drowning, and working out the complicated problems which arise from the family's attempts to keep these ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-the-okay
I wasn't as impressed with this book as I thought I was going to be. Something I always tell other people: don't go into a book with expectations. I should have listened to my own advice, then maybe I would have enjoyed the book a little bit more. But this being Schwarz's first novel, I'm not going to complain too much, because it was still pretty good.

It was a little too jumpy, just all around, writing, plot line, characters. While they weren't all over the map, they didn't stay on the same lin
Oct 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-read
It's a cold winter, on a lonely island when Mathilda drowns, leaving her child Ruth with sister Amanda to take care of her. Ruth's father eventually returns from the war and the three have to learn how to live with each other. Even though Ruth was only a few years old, she has a few fragmented memories including her being in the water and there being a baby. The rest of the book is Ruth piecing these memories together as she grows older under Amanda and her dad's watchful eye.

I've had bad luck
Char Freund
Oh what a tangled web we weave...

And just like a spider web, the book drew me into the underlying tangled story. The imperfect characters were believable for their reactions considering the time period and considering each person's childhood. And as time goes on I realize that every family has its secrets. (Or could that just be my concurrent interest in geneolgy?) The plot unfolded in layers keeping interest surrounding the underlying mystery. And despite some reviews, I did find it a good stor
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First apprehension, then empathy, then outrage, justification, disgust…I was on a roller-coaster.

Can’t say the book gave me many happy moments; it kept me on edge waiting, with anticipation and dread, to see what was coming next to twist my theories out of whack. (view spoiler)

The miserly disclosure of bits of a mystery, given from several points of view, had me tense
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Not bad for a first novel. Kind of fun to read about how things were many years ago, and there are some big secrets to be revealed, so it definitely keeps your interest, although not "gripping."
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, thriller
Not normally something I would read. It was good and I'm glad I read it.
I liked the shifting narratives as well as the deep and complicated relationships of the four core women of the story.
Cathy Wacksman
I know authors like to go back and forth in time but this happened on the same page too many times. Just as a bit of continuing story gets going, another part starts. The story had no good/happy parts and didn't seem logical most of the time. Still I have to commend the effort of this authors first work.
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