Oh just tell the truth already – “Drowning Ruth” by Christine Schwarz

June 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm 3 comments

“Drowning Ruth” by Christine Schwarz, Published in 2008

Front CoverThis book wasn’t bad, it was just unremarkable.  It is one of those books that you can read quickly but will definitely be forgotten four books from now.

One winter during WWI, Amanda returns to  the Wisconsin farmland.  She had been a nurse but her sanity was starting to wane  after the end of a torrid affair so she decides to return home to stay with her sister, Matilda (Mattie).  Mattie is on the farm along with her young daughter Ruth – her husband Carl joined the army and is stationed overseas. As Amanda tries to recover from her broken heart, it becomes quickly evident that Amanda cannot escape the affair as easily as she thought.

From the outset of the book, the reader is clued in that Mattie drowns and that Amanda stays and takes care of Ruth. But there is something strange about how Mattie died and that Ruth has strange memories about the night in question.  For some reason in the early Spring, the sisters decide to move out of their farmhouse and into the home Mattie and her husband had built out on a desolate island.  They live there through the Summer but then remain through the early Winter when the lake is frozen and they are isolated.  After Mattie drowns there are a lot of questions about why the sisters, not only chose to live there, but chose to remain there when no help from anyone was possible.

Of course this then becomes a story about the secrets that Amanda knows and the warped memories of Ruth as a small child.  Carl eventually comes home from the war and both he and Amanda raise Ruth.  But, as is always the case in novels like this, the family secrets can’t be kept and eventually Amanda has to face up to the past and Ruth has to learn the truth about her role in the night her mother died.

Schwarz writes this novel from three perspectives: an omniscient narrator, Amanda’s voice, and Ruth’s voice.  This works okay but does get in the way of the momentum of the story.  The story is propelled forward and then moves back, then there is speculation,  then the story moves forward again.  It gets to be a bit much.  There is also a point where as a road-weary reader I just wanted to get to the heart of everything so I could better understand the characters.  There are too many times when Amanda is on the verge of telling the truth and then somehow doesn’t and frankly that is just annoying. It is a lot of happenstance in this novel. Everyone seems to keep running into everyone – maybe Wisconsin is just that small.

I think this story would have been better served with the reader having the knowledge of everything upfront and then watching the story move forward.  But for whatever reason, Schwarz felt like suspense was needed to keep the reader engaged.  I wouldn’t discourage reading this book but don’t be surprised if at some point you say to the book “oh, get on with it!”  But relax all the questions will be answered literally on the second to last page.   And then you can move onto your next book.


Entry filed under: June 2013 reads. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. popsiculture11  |  June 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! I liked this book, but didn’t like, it. And you nailed it on the head, it would’ve worked much better had the author told everything up front.

    • 2. Emily C  |  June 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      I am glad someone agrees with me:)! Who knows -maybe her publisher made her write it that way.

  • […] Oh just tell the truth already – “Drowning Ruth” by Christine Schwarz (readingthroughthebs.wordpress.com) […]


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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