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Drowning Ruth

by Meghann on December 19, 2012

We did book club a little differently tonight. Before we dove into discussing this month’s book, we took a a little field trip outside to check out some of the gorgeous lights in South Tampa.


Gorgeous. I love seeing the streets all lit up at night. I have a few neighbors that put some lights up around me, but nothing like what you see here. I did a walking tour of the same street last year and it was just as festive and lit up as I remembered. Maybe one day I’ll have a house to call home on a street just like this one… that’s the dream anyway.

Our lights excursion was an easy 1.5 mile run loop through the neighborhood – just long enough to see some lights and loosen up our evening legs. The streets were packed with runners checking out the lights, so we were definitely not alone out there.

Winnie joined us for the loop.


I think she was a fan. πŸ™‚

Mary was our host for this month’s book club (we take turns picking the book and hosting the monthly meeting). She treated us to homemade enchiladas (holy yum!) and the group filled in rest of the meal cilantro sweet potatoes, black bean hummus and veggies, and a bean salad.


My plate of goodies.


I was in charge of dessert and brought my leftover cookies from the TBLB cookie exchange.   


Our book up for discussion this week was Drowning Ruth by Christina Shwarz.


Drowning Ruth opens in 1919, on the heels of the influenza epidemic that followed the First World War. Although there were telephones and motor cars and dance halls in the small towns of Wisconsin in those years, the townspeople remained rigid and forbidding. As a young woman, Amanda Starkey, a Lutheran farmer’s daughter, had been firmly discouraged from an inappropriate marriage with a neighboring Catholic boy. A few years later, as a nurse in Milwaukee, she is seduced by a dishonorable man. Her shame sends her into a nervous breakdown, and she returns to the family farm. Within a year, though, her beloved sister Mathilde drowns under mysterious circumstances. And when Mathilde’s husband, Carl, returns from the war, he finds his small daughter, Ruth, in Amanda’s tenacious grip, and she will tell him nothing about the night his wife drowned.

After failing to complete the last two books for book club, I’m happy to report that I finished Drowning Ruth with plenty of time to spare this month (mainly thanks to the fact I downloaded the audiobook version of the story and had a lot of time to kill in the car during my demo tour of Miami last month). It did take me a couple of chapters to really get into it, but once the mystery of the story started to unravel, I began to sink my teeth into it.

This is not a happy book; it’s sad, dark, and depressing. I kept hoping everything would resolve itself in the end, but it doesn’t. I finished the book feeling sad and unsatisfied. The only person that gets their happy ending in the book is the one who is blissfully unaware what’s going on in the lies and hard truths that surround her. I guess ignorance really is bliss.

Our discussion tonight touched on the main character’s mental health (that girl was crazy), the changing voice of the book as the narration jumped between characters, the era the story was written for, and the overall impression of the book. I thought Drowning Ruth overall was a great read, but definitely needed to be followed up by a lighter, happier read.


The girls: Diana, Courtney, Me, Stephanie, Meg, Mary, and Winnie in front.

Have you read Drowning Ruth? What were your thoughts on the book?

1 Jen Correa @ Mom's Gotta Run December 20, 2012 at 9:55 am

Dinner looked delicious. If all book clubs come with those yummy dinners, count me in. πŸ™‚

2 Kelly December 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

So do the other girls actually read the book?

3 Meghann December 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

Yes, we all read the book. There are times when we don’t all finish the book (I’ve been guilty of this in the past), but last night all of the girls except one had finished the entire book before the book club meeting.

4 Christina December 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

I think she’s asking if the other girls actually read it, unlike you listening to it via an audiobook.

5 Meghann December 20, 2012 at 10:29 am

One girl picked up a copy at the library, three girls downloaded it to their e-readers, and another listened to it via audiobook just as I did.

6 Sara@RunningInPinkProject December 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

I read it in college. I remember liking the book but its def depressing. Im reading a “tween” hunger games-ish type book now called Divergent. I really like it!
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7 Janine @ The Purple Giraffe December 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

I read it last summer and remember really liking it for most of the book but then being very disappointed by the ending – which of course, made me not like the book at all!
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8 Steph December 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

One of my favorite things in the world is black bean hummus. I haven’t made it in SO long but you just reminded me to whip some up. Yum! Good stuff. I hate a book with a sad ending. I’m the kind of girl who likes everything wrapped up in a neat little happy bow at the end. (as unrealistic as that is!). πŸ™‚

PS- I still have WAAAAY too many cookies left over from Sunday!
Steph recently posted..Kindness

9 Genna December 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

I teach psychology and we go over mental illness, do you think this would be at all appropriate for high schoolers? I may have to read it this week!

10 Meghann December 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

Yes, I think it would be appropriate for high schoolers. It’s set in the early 1900’s and the most “risque” the book gets is one of the main characters having an affair with a married man.

11 Courtney W December 20, 2012 at 11:25 am

It might be an interesting read to discuss mental illnesses and how it can interfere with family dynamics. The book is PG, maybe PG-13 at best so high schoolers could definitley read it. I’d suggest Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber before Drowning Ruth…far more content to discuss in a psych class. The main character from Drowning Ruth suffers from PTSD at best but Sybil is working the dissociative identity disorder and her mom had paranoid schizophrenia and there’s a great movie with Sally Fields that was adapted later.

12 Sara @ fitcupcaker December 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I want some cookies now πŸ™‚ lol. I havent read the book πŸ™
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13 Liz December 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Why can’t all books have a happy ending? That was a good idea to take the cookies for the cookie swap. That way you won’t be tempted to eat them all yourself. πŸ™‚
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