I used to sit at my Colombian grandmother's knee when I was little, while she combed my hair. She would dip her small grey comb into a glass of warm water, and then run it through my dark curls. As she smoothed my hair, she'd tell me stories. I would run to her as soon as I saw her reach for the blue glass to fill with water. In her soft voice, she'd tell me about her childhood, the small village where she came from, what life was like in South America so very long ago. Good stories about being four years old when she saw the brilliant fireworks in the night sky celebrating the turn of the century as gold coins were tossed out to the people at midnight by her small village's mayor. I could hear the clink of the coins hitting the ground as she spoke.
I'm still the same way. As much time as I spend online, I still read, every night, before I go to sleep. I escape into good stories. Good stories are my time away in another place, where I always come back changed.
I have found just such a Good Story, and I'm giving away not just a copy, but a signed copy by the author.
Keija Parssinen is the author of The Ruins of Us, a book riveting enough to keep me awake two nights to finish it; trying to fall asleep in the middle of it was useless. This is Keija's first novel, and I can barely believe it's a debut. The Ruins of Us is a story set in Saudi Arabia with characters so rich they become flesh and blood real.
This is a GOOD story. A story about an American woman, married and living the isolated life that can come from living in another country, who's had to learn to live with things; which doesn't mean they've become easier to live with. It's a story about excuses being given as reasons. A tale of a marriage, children, her children; and powerlessly watching them learn everything they know and believe come from their father's culture.
It's a story about a woman who one day looks at the last thing she has left in her life, her children, and the pain of seeing them as if they're someone else's; scarcely able to recognize a shred of herself in them anymore.
I was swept away in hand over mouth emotion as I read these pages.
Keija masterfully balances subtlety with aching transparency in her characters, making this book an important and powerful read that will leave you changed, as I was. I came away with a new understanding of something I once quickly judged.
Keija romantically spent the first twelve years of her life in Saudi Arabia, an experience that no doubt resulted in the beauty of this book. Her website will tell you everything you need to know about this woman who writes like a dream. You can follow her on twitter @KeijaParssinen and like her on FaceBook Keija Parssinen.
I will be using random.org to pick a winner for a signed copy of The Ruins of Us. *Just leave a comment to enter. *Tweets would be appreciated*
*I received no compensation for this post. Keija is The Flying Chalupa/Tarja's sister and Tarja had asked me to review her sister's debut novel. I did, and when I finished it, I was so sad that it was over.